Assessment of the dorsal fin spine for chimaeroid (Holocephali: Chimaeriformes) age estimation
Previous attempts to age chimaeroids have not rigorously tested assumptions of dorsal fin spine growth dynamics. Here, novel imaging and data-analysis techniques revealed that the dorsal fin spine of the spotted ratfish Hydrolagus colliei is an unreliable structure for age estimation. Variation among individuals in the relationship between spine width and distance from the spine tip indicated that the technique of transverse sectioning may impart imprecision and bias to age estimates. The number of growth-band pairs observed by light microscopy in the inner dentine layer was not a good predictor of body size. Mineral density gradients, indicative of growth zones, were absent in the dorsal fin spine of H. colliei, decreasing the likelihood that the bands observed by light microscopy represent a record of growth with consistent periodicity. These results indicate that the hypothesis of aseasonal growth remains plausible and it should not be assumed that chimaeroid age is quantifiable by standard techniques.
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