, Volume 73, Issue 2, pp 125-139

Comparisons between the biology of two co-occurring species of whiting (Sillaginidae) in a large marine embayment

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Synopsis

We compare the biology of the tropical species Sillago analis and the temperate species Sillago schomburgkii in Shark Bay, a large subtropical marine embayment on the west coast of Australia. This environment constitutes approximately the southernmost and northernmost limits of the distributions of these two species, respectively. The annuli visible in sectioned otoliths of S. analis and S. schomburgkii form annually. Their numbers were thus used to age the individuals of these two species, which are morphologically very similar and live in the same habitats. Although the growth rates of S. analis and S. schomburgkii are very similar until maturity is attained, they subsequently diverge, with S. schomburgkii investing relatively more energy into somatic growth. The maximum total lengths and ages of both the females (320 mm, 6 years) and males (283 mm, 8 years) of S. analis were not as great as those of the females (383 mm, 9 years) and males (302 mm, 9 years) of S. schomburgkii. In Shark Bay, S. schomburgkii spawns earlier and longer than S. analis, i.e. August–December vs. January–March, which would result in the juveniles of these two species recruiting into nursery areas at different times. In addition, S. schomburgkii spawns earlier and for longer in Shark Bay than in temperate marine waters 800 km further south, presumably reflecting the fact that, in that subtropical embayment, water temperatures over which this species typically spawns are attained earlier and last for longer. However, although environmental conditions in Shark Bay and those temperate marine waters differ markedly, the growth of the corresponding sexes of S. schomburgkii in these two water bodies is similar.