, Volume 29, Issue 1, pp 15-26

Seasonality, aestivation and the life history of the salamanderfish Lepidogalaxias salamandroides (Pisces: Lepidogalaxiidae)

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Synopsis

Changes in the age/length structure of Lepidogalaxias salamandroides populations in temporary waters of south-western Australia were monitored over a 51 month period by regular field sampling. Each year the study area experienced a summer drought of approximately five months duration. During the drought period Lepidogalaxias burrows into the mud and aestivates and substantial mortality occurs during this period. Body lipid reserves decrease during this period suggesting that they are the main energy source used during aestivation. The amount of lipid remaining after aestivation appears to be important in determining when female fish reproduce. Males die after reproduction and achieve a maximum age of only about 12 months. Some females also reproduce and die at this age while others defer reproduction for another year. Fecundity is much higher in these older, larger fish: they must however, survive two drought periods before they reproduce. The evolution of the life history style shown by Lepidogalaxias salamandroides is discussed with respect to the well defined seasonality of the region and it is suggested that selection for reproduction at an early age is balanced by the constraints of offspring survival during the aestivation period.