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Otoliths, increments, and elements: keys to a comprehensive understanding of fish populations?

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Abstract:

The chronological properties of otoliths are unparalleled in the animal world, allowing accurate estimates of age and growth at both the daily and the yearly scale. Based on the successes of calcified structures as environmental proxies in other taxa, it was logical that researchers should attempt to link otolith biochronologies with otolith chemistry. With the benefit of hindsight, this anticipation may have been naive. For instance, the concentrations of many elements are lower in the otolith than in corals, bivalves, seal teeth, or the other bony structures of fish, making them less than ideal for elemental analyses. Nevertheless, there is growing interest in the use of otolith chemistry as a natural tag of fish stocks. Such applications are directed at questions concerning fish populations rather than using the fish as a passive recorder of the ambient environment and do not rely upon any explicit relationship between environmental variables and otolith chemistry. The questions that can be addressed with otolith chemistry are not necessarily answerable with genetic studies, suggesting that genetic and otolith studies complement rather than compete with each other. Thus, we believe that otolith applications have the potential to revolutionize our understanding of the integrity of fish populations and the management of fish stocks.

Les propriétés des otolithes sur le plan de la chronologie sont sans équivalent dans le monde animal, car elles permettent d'estimer avec précision l'âge et la croissance à une échelle tant quotidienne qu'annuelle. Étant donné les succès obtenus par l'emploi des structures calcifiées comme substituts des conditions environnementales chez d'autres taxons, il était logique pour les chercheurs de tenter de faire le lien entre la biochronologie et la chimie des otolithes. Rétrospectivement, cette approche peut sembler naïve. Par exemple, les concentrations de nombreux éléments sont plus faibles dans les otolithes que dans les coraux, les bivalves, les dents de phoques ou les autres structures osseuses des poissons, ce qui en fait de bien mauvais candidats à l'analyse élémentaire. Toutefois, on note un intérêt croissant pour l'emploi de la chimie des otolithes comme marque naturelle des stocks de poissons. De telles applications visent à répondre à des questions sur les populations de poissons plutôt qu'à utiliser les poissons comme enregistreurs passifs du milieu ambiant, et ne se fondent pas sur une relation explicite entre les variables environnementales et la chimie des otolithes. Les questions auxquelles peut répondre la chimie des otolithes ne sont pas nécessairement abordables par l'étude génétique, de sorte que les travaux sur les otolithes et les études génétiques vont se compléter plutôt que se concurrencer. Nous pensons ainsi que les applications de l'étude des otolithes peuvent révolutionner aussi bien notre compréhension de l'intégrité des populations de poissons que la gestion des stocks halieutiques.[Traduit par la Rédaction]

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: January 1, 2001

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  • Published continuously since 1901 (under various titles), this monthly journal is the primary publishing vehicle for the multidisciplinary field of aquatic sciences. It publishes perspectives (syntheses, critiques, and re-evaluations), discussions (comments and replies), articles, and rapid communications, relating to current research on cells, organisms, populations, ecosystems, or processes that affect aquatic systems. The journal seeks to amplify, modify, question, or redirect accumulated knowledge in the field of fisheries and aquatic science. Occasional supplements are dedicated to single topics or to proceedings of international symposia.
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