Otoliths were examined from late-stage larvae and juveniles of King George whiting, Sillaginodes punctata, collected from Swan Bay in spring 1989. Increments in otoliths of larval S. punctata are known to be formed daily. A transition in the microstructure of otoliths
from late-stage larvae was apparently related to environmental changes associated with entry to Port Phillip Bay. The pattern of abundance of post-larvae of S. punctata in fortnightly samples supported the contention that the transition was formed immediately prior to “settlement”
in seagrass habitats. Backcalculation to the otolith transition suggested that five cohorts had entered Swan Bay, each approximately 10 days apart, from late September to early November. Stability of this pattern for juveniles from sequential samples indicated that otolith increments continued
to be formed daily in the juvenile stage. The pattern of settlement was consistent for two sites within Swan Bay. The larval phase of King George whiting settling in Port Phillip Bay was extremely long and variable, ranging from approximately 100 to 170 days. Age at settlement was more variable
than length, and growth rate at settlement was extremely slow, approximately 0.06 mm⋅d–1. Backcalculated hatching dates ranged from April to July. Increment widths in the larval stage suggest that growth slows after approximately 45 to 75 days; beyond which individuals
are in a slow growth, competent stage of 40 to 100 days. Variable larval duration and settlement is discussed in terms of early-life-history strategies and hydrodynamic processes.
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