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Open Access Diel, lunar, and seasonal spawning patterns of the Atlantic goliath grouper, Epinephelus itajara, off Florida, United States

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The diel, lunar, and seasonal timing of spawning in Atlantic goliath grouper Epinephelus itajara (Lichtenstein, 1822) in the United States is highly specific, occurring at night during new moon phases of August, September, and October. We derive these patterns from four lines of evidence apparent on spawning sites during the known spawning season: (1) from the transitory appearance of fish aggregations; (2) from simultaneous recordings of goliath grouper nighttime calls and nighttime vertical ascents that were far more frequent during the new moon phase than on the full moon; (3) from collections of goliath grouper eggs (genetically verified) at night downstream from known spawning sites; and (4) from significantly higher frequencies of both hydrated oocytes (indicating imminent spawning) and postovulatory follicles (indicating recent spawning) in ovarian biopsies taken from goliath grouper captured on spawning sites during new moon phases relative to full moon phases. We suggest that dark-night spawning is an adaptation minimizing egg predation by several species of scad [Decapterus punctatus (Cuvier, 1829), Decapterus tabl Berry, 1968, and Decapterus macarellus (Cuvier, 1833)] and herring [Sardinella aurita Valenciennes, 1847 and Etrumeus teres (DeKay, 1842)] that are abundant on goliath grouper spawning sites. The seasonal spawning of goliath grouper, late summer–early fall, coincides with habitat conditions considered ideal for settlement of early juveniles in mangrove nurseries.

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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Florida State University Coastal and Marine Laboratory, 3618 Coastal Highway 98, St. Teresa, Florida 32358;, Email: [email protected] 2: Instituto COMAR – Conservação Marinha do Brasil, Rua Helena Degelmann, 104CEP 89218-580, Costa e Silva, Joinville, SC, Brazil 3: Florida State University Coastal and Marine Laboratory, 3618 Coastal Highway 98, St. Teresa, Florida 32358 4: Florida State University, Department of Biological Science, 319 Stadium Drive, Tallahassee, Florida 32306 5: Florida State University, Department of Biological Science, 319 Stadium Drive, Tallahassee, Florida 32306, Fish and Wildlife Research Institute, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, 100 8th Avenue SE, St. Petersburg, Florida 33701 6: University of Trinidad and Tobago, 2nd Avenue North Western Main Road, Chaguaramas, Trinidad and Tobago, West Indies 7: Mote Marine Laboratory, 1600 Ken Thompson Parkway, Sarasota, Florida 34236 8: University of Florida, Fisheries & Aquatic Sciences, 7922 NW 71st Street, Gainesville, Florida 32653 9: University of South Florida, College of Marine Science, 140 7th Avenue S, St. Petersburg, Florida 33701

Publication date: April 1, 2017

This article was made available online on July 6, 2016 as a Fast Track article with title: "Diel, lunar, and seasonal spawning patterns of the Atlantic goliath grouper, <i>Epinephelus itajara</i>, off Florida, United States".

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  • 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.
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