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Salinity selection and preference of the grey snapper Lutjanus griseus: field and laboratory observations

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Field observations were supplemented with laboratory experiments to reveal patterns of salinity selection and preference for grey snapper Lutjanus griseus (c. 21 cm total length, LT), an ecologically and economically important species in the south-eastern U.S.A. Fish abundance data were examined from a long-term field survey conducted in the mangrove habitats of Biscayne Bay, Florida, where salinities ranged from <1 to 40. First, regression analyses indicated significant, positive linear relationships with salinity for both L. griseus frequency of occurrence and concentration (density when present). These patterns are inconsistent with physiological expectations of minimizing energetic osmoregulatory costs. Next, the salinity preference and swimming activity of 11 L. griseus (ranging from 18 to 23 cm LT) were investigated using a newly developed electronic shuttlebox system. In the laboratory, fish preferred intermediate salinities in the range of 9–23. Swimming activity (measured in terms of spontaneous swimming speed) followed a parabolic relationship with salinity, with reduced activity at salinity extremes perhaps reflecting compensation for higher osmoregulatory costs. It is suspected that the basis of the discrepancy between laboratory and field observations for size classes at or near maturity ultimately relates to the reproductive imperative to move towards offshore (high-salinity) coral-reef habitats, a necessity that probably overrides the strategy of minimizing osmoregulatory energetic costs.
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Keywords: Biscayne Bay; Everglades restoration; electronic shuttlebox; gray snapper; osmoregulation; salinity choice

Document Type: Regular Paper

Affiliations: Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, 4600 Rickenbacker Causeway, Miami, FL 33149, U.S.A.

Publication date: 2010-05-01

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