, Volume 59, Issue 2, pp 199-209

Effects of Group Membership and Size Distribution within a Group on Growth Rates of Juvenile Sablefish Anoplopoma fimbria

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Abstract

Group membership can confer both advantages and disadvantages to growth in juvenile fishes. The balance between costs and benefits of social interactions can shift depending on such factors as the composition of the group (density and size disparity) and the availability of food. We examined the effect of these factors on absolute growth and growth depensation in juvenile sablefish, Anoplopoma fimbria. Increasing density and increasing size disparity had little influence on absolute growth rates of juvenile sablefish and the effects of these social factors were not modified by ration level. In experiments testing density effects, absolute growth did not differ among groups of 1, 3, or 10 fish held at high rations, but at low rations single fish exhibited a different pattern of size-dependent growth compared to fish in groups. In experiments testing disparity effects, absolute growth did not differ between groups with an even size distribution and groups with a mixed size distribution. The relative size of an individual within a group, i.e., small, medium, or large, also did not modify growth, despite evidence of higher chasing behavior in mixed size distributions. Although the growth of small fish was not diminished in the presence of large fish, negative impacts of size disparity were expressed in high levels of cannibalism, which occurred in 42% of groups with a mixed size distribution. Significant growth depensation over time occurred in the density experiment, but not in the size disparity experiment, possibly due to the shorter duration of the latter experiment. We suggest that growth depensation was generated by individual variability in growth capacity rather than social effects on growth rates. Schooling behavior, measured by group cohesion indices, increased with fish size and was higher in groups with an even vs. a mixed size distribution. These results for sablefish are consistent with other schooling species in which growth variability is determined by exploitative competition and/or genetic variability in growth capacity rather than interference competition.