, Volume 17, Issue 1, pp 226-234

Salt-marsh tide pools as winter refuges for the mummichog,Fundulus heteroclitus, in New Jersey

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Abstract

Mummichog,Fundulus heteroclitus, were collected weekly from a southern New Jersey high-salinity salt marsh from October 1988 to June 1989 and from September 1989 to June 1990 to determine the overwintering habitat. Major habitat types sampled within the salt marsh were subtidal creek, intertidal creeks, and salt-marsh pools. Few individuals were collected in the intertidal creek or the subtidal creek from the end of October through the beginning of May for both years, when creek water temperatures were low. Both young-of-the-year and adults of both sexes were abundant in the salt-marsh pools (total lengths ranged from 29 mm to 125 mm) throughout the winter. In the spring, catch per unit effort (CPUE) within the tidal creek increased with increasing water temperature, while CPUE in marsh pools decreased with increases in estuarine water temperature. These collection patterns indicate that the majority ofF. heteroclitus may move from subtidal and intertidal creeks into salt-marsh pools in the late fall and leave in the spring. This seasonal movement could explain how fish survive winter environmental conditions because daily average water temperatures of salt-marsh pools were warmer than subtidal creek temperatures for much of the winter.