, Volume 61, Issue 1, pp 27-40

Patterns of growth, energy utilization and reproduction in some meso- and bathypelagic fishes off Southern California

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We have studied growth, energy use and reproduction in 4 mesopelagic fishes and 5 bathypelagic fishes living off Southern California (USA). All of the mesopelagic species underwent diurnal vertical migrations, while none of the bathypelagic species did so. The life histories of these pelagic fishes were compared among themselves and with epipelagic sardines and anchovies studied by others. The epipelagic species had the highest growth rates (estimated from otoliths, expressed in standard length or kilocalories), the mesopelagic species had the lowest growth rates and the bathypelagic species had intermediate growth rates. The relatively rapid growth rates of the bathypelagic fishes were achieved by high relative growth efficiencies made possible by low metabolic rates. Of the species studied, the lifespans of the epipelagic and bathypelagic species ranged from 4 to 8 yr and the lifespans of mesopelagic species from 5 to 8 yr. Data on egg diameters suggest that the mesopelagic species first reproduce in their 3rd yr, while the bathypelagic species do so in their last year. Epipelagic fishes generally have a large size, rapid growth, long life and early, repeated reproduction. Mesopelagic fishes are characterized by small size, slow growth, long life and early, repeated reproduction. Bathypelagic fishes generally have large size, rapid growth, somewhat shorter lives and late reproduction, which is possible a single event. The latter pattern is evidently feasible only in a rather stable environment where juvenile survivorship would always display relatively low variability. Many unusual characteristics of deep-living animals have possibly been selected by factors peculiar to the environment; however, such characteristics are just as likely to have been selected by factors equally present in many other environments, but not expressed there due to masking selective forces. In particular, we have in mind the darkness, stability and homogeneity of the bathypelagic realm as phenomena which represent the effective absence of many selective forces.

The first two authors contributed equally and their names are listed in alphabetical order
Communicated by N.D. Holland, La Jolla