, Volume 11, Issue 3, pp 161-171

Field and laboratory observations of spawning periodicity and behavior of a northern population of the Atlantic silverside, Menidia menidia (Pisces: Atherinidae)

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The spawning periodicity and mating behavior of a northern population of the Atlantic silverside, Menidia menidia, was studied both in the field (Salem Harbor, Massachusetts) and in laboratory experiments. Spawning in the field coincided with new and full moons. Under conditions of unlimited food availability in artificial outdoor pools that received natural celestial illumination or in indoor aquaria receiving no evening illumination, spawning occurred every 1–3 days rather than fortnightly. These results suggest that tidal influences are a primary factor that synchronizes spawning in M. menidia. Published reports of diel time of spawning in both marine and freshwater species of Menidia indicate a generic tendency to spawn during mid-morning. This pattern coupled with high tides that cover suitable spawning substrates during mid-morning only at fortnightly intervals could account for the semilunar spawning cycle in marine populations of Menidia. Although general characteristics of the reproductive ecology of M. menidia in Massachusetts were similar to a thoroughly studied population in South Carolina, several differences were evident. The breeding season was shorter in Massachusetts (late; April–June), and occurred over a much lower range of temperatures (9–21°C). Intensity and frequency of spawning was correlated with the height of high tide. Eggs were deposited only on mats of intertidal, filamentous algae rather than on roots or stems of Spartina alterniflora or other intertidal vegetation. Promiscuous spawning occurred in small, highly male-dominated groups of fish, primarily after the tide had begun to recede, and often at the water's edge. No predation on spawning adults was observed but the mummichog, Fundulus heteroclitus, fed daily on developing embryos during high tide.

Contribution No. 81, Massachusetts Cooperative Fisheries Research Unit, Contribution No. 349, Marine Sciences Research Center, State University of New York at Stony Brook.