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Istiophorid billfishes are notoriously difficult to identify to species, especially early life history stages. Traditional use of morphology and pigment based characters for species separation of larvae can fail when faced with moderate levels of intra-specific phenotypic plasticity.
Unfortunately, as the early life history of marine fishes can play an important role in reproductive success and management strategies, we are potentially missing or confounding valuable data by misidentifying specimens. We recently presented a DNA based method of identification for near real-time
processing of ichthyoplankton samples. Using this method we have unambiguously identified seven striped marlin larvae from Hawaiian waters. Additional analysis of DNA sequence data shows that these larvae all have unique mitochondrial haplo-types indicating they each had different mothers
and were not the result of a single chance event. This represents the first detection of spawning activity in an area that historically has been regarded as only nursery habitat for this species. This finding has important ramifications for fishery management as striped marlin represent a
significant portion of the billfish catch in the Hawaii-based longline fishery.
The Bulletin of Marine Science is dedicated to the dissemination of high quality research from the world's oceans. All aspects of marine science are treated by the Bulletin of Marine Science, including papers in marine biology, biological oceanography, fisheries, marine affairs, applied marine physics, marine geology and geophysics, marine and atmospheric chemistry, and meteorology and physical oceanography.