Environmental Biology of Fishes

, Volume 6, Issue 3–4, pp 269–276

Reproductive behavior of the Atlantic silverside, Menidia menidia (Pisces, Atherinidae)

  • Douglas P. Middaugh
  • Geoffrey I. Scott
  • John M. Dean


The spawning behavior of the Atlantic silverside,Menidia menidia, was studied at two sites on the North Edisto River estuary in South Carolina. Prespawning schools moved back and forth along the shoreline as the time of high tide approached. Spawning runs took place in the upper intertidal zone at high tide.

Spawning fish deposited their eggs on three types of substrates: 1) the lower stems of cordgrass plants,Spartina alterniflora, 2) detrital mats, and 3) exposed cordgrass roots along erosional scraps. Spawning behavior during egg deposition and fertilization was similar for all three substrates. Females released eggs during a rapid fluttering motion of the posterior half of the body. A similar movement accompanied release of sperm by males. Behavior of fish just prior to spawning insured deposition of gametes at locations that provided protection from thermal and drying stress during development. Eggs were deposited at mean intertidal elevations of 1.8 and 1.5 meters above mean low water (MLW) at respective study sites. They were exposed to the atmosphere for approximately ten hours between successive high tides.

During spawning runs in which eggs were deposited at the base of cordgrass plants, ambient dissolved oxygen concentrations of the water in the spawning area were sometimes reduced to < 1.0 mg. 1−1. Spent fish, apparently incurring an oxygen debt while spawning, formed a nonschooling aggregation offshore from the spawning zone.

The recurrent use of specific spawning substrates for egg deposition resulted in an uneven distribution of spawning runs along the shoreline at each study site.


Intertidal Estuaries Fish Spawning Substrates Dissolved oxygen 


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Copyright information

© Dr. W. Junk Publishers 1981

Authors and Affiliations

  • Douglas P. Middaugh
    • 1
  • Geoffrey I. Scott
    • 1
  • John M. Dean
    • 2
  1. 1.U.S. Environmental Protection AgencyGulf Breeze Environmental Research Laboratory, Bears Bluff Field StationJohns IslandU.S.A.
  2. 2.Belle W. Baruch Institute for Marine Biology and Coastal Research, and Department of BiologyUniversity of South CarolinaColumbiaU.S.A.
  3. 3.U.S. Environmental Protection AgencyGulf Breeze Environmental Research LaboratoryGulf BreezeU.S.A.

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