The role of fecundity regulation and abortive maturation in the reproductive strategy of Norwegian spring-spawning herring (Clupea harengus)
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This study investigates the reproductive strategy, an important component in the estimation of stock reproductive potential, in Norwegian spring-spawning (NSS) herring (Clupea harengus), an iteroparous, extreme capital spawner, through the estimation of fecundity over a period of 3 years including two complete maturation cycles and three spawning seasons. NSS herring have an ‘optimistic’ strategy, with almost all adult herring caught in August being in the vitellogenic stage of ovary development, despite overwintering energy levels not being determined at this time. Fecundity in the summer, i.e., more than half a year before spawning in spring (February–April), was also much higher than could be supported by an individual’s concurrent energy levels. Consequently, fecundity was later reduced through atresia with the majority of this occurring before overwintering. The total reduction and the length of the time period in which the reduction took place appeared to vary between years. During the spawning season, atresia was mostly prevalent in small first-time spawners <180 g and several individuals aborted ovary development at this time. Final fecundity varied between years with a difference of up to 18% and was linked to annual variations in condition. In conclusion, this extensive field study has demonstrated that each individual herring can display a suite of size-specific reproductive tactics to fine-tune oocyte production in response to fluctuating levels of planktonic prey.
KeywordsOvary Development Oocyte Diameter Vitellogenic Oocyte Clupea Harengus Vitellogenic Stage
The study was funded by the Research Council of Norway (NFR) project "Timing and determination of fecundity and skipped spawning: implications for stock—recruitment theory of determinate spawners" (173341/S40) and encouraged by discussion with and the terms of references of the NAFO Working Group on Reproductive Potential and COST Action Fish Reproduction and Fisheries (FA0601). We would like to thank the crew and personnel of the M/S Libas, M/S Gardar and R/S G.O. Sars for the collection of samples. A warm thank you also to Anders Thorsen, Merete Fonn and Bente Njøs Strand for help and advice in the analyses of samples and to Cindy van Damme (IMARES, The Netherlands) and the anonymous readers and referees who gave valuable comments on earlier drafts of the manuscript.
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