Growth and reproductive biology of the foxfish Bodianus frenchii, a very long-lived and monandric protogynous hermaphroditic labrid
Samples of the foxfish Bodianus frenchii, collected over reefs on the lower west and south coasts of Western Australia, contained individuals ranging up to 78 years old. Although B. frenchii is far smaller than many other species within the Labridae, its maximum age is the greatest yet recorded for this highly speciose family and, together with Achoerodus gouldii, provides an example of a temperate hypsigenyine with exceptional longevity. Length and age compositions of females and males and the histological characteristics of gonads of a wide length range of individuals demonstrated that B. frenchii is a protogynous hermaphrodite. Furthermore, as, on both coasts, the length of the smallest male was greater than that at which all females had become mature, B. frenchii is a monandric protogynous hermaphrodite, i.e. all of its males are derived from functional females. Attainment of maturity by females is related more to length than age, whereas the reverse is true for sex change. On the basis of Schnute growth equations and length-to-body mass regression equations, the predicted length at age and body mass at length of fish on the south coast were greater than those on the west coast throughout life. Although B. frenchii spawns daily during the main spawning season, which extends from October to February on both coasts, its fecundity at any given length is substantially greater on the south than on the west coast. The more rapid growth of juveniles and earlier attainment of maturity by B. frenchii on the south coast than on the warmer west coast, together with maturation at a similar size on both coasts, run counter to the trends observed in many species and certain ecological theories regarding the relationships between life-cycle traits and latitude and temperature. The attainment by B. frenchii of a larger body length at age, of greater body mass at length and of greater fecundity at both length and body mass in fish on the south than on the west coast strongly suggests that conditions on the former, cooler coast are more favourable for this labrid, which belongs to a sub-genus whose other species typically live in cool, deep, temperate waters.