Geographic variation in life-history traits of the long-lived monacanthid Meuschenia scaber (Monacanthidae)


Demography and life-history characteristics of reef fishes may vary as a consequence of ecological and environmental factors that lead to changes among populations. We evaluated variation in life-history traits in the leatherjacket Meuschenia scaber (Monacanthidae) through age-based analysis of 2112 fish collected from three locations in New Zealand distributed along an 8° latitudinal and 5 °C SST gradients. Meuschenia scaber showed distinct differences in age structure, growth patterns, maximum size and age, sex ratio and mortality across this latitudinal gradient. At warmer lower latitudes (Hauraki Gulf) the population displayed significantly greater mean adult body size (Lmax) and asymptotic length (L) in comparison with the other two locations. Fish from Tasman Bay (mid-range latitude) had a longer life span (Tmax) and a maximum age of 19 years, which represents the longest-lived monacanthid documented to date. Fish from Pegasus Bay (cooler higher latitude) showed a slower initial growth than lower latitude counterparts. The difference in maximum age between the sexes declined clinally from 7 years in the Hauraki Gulf to 3 years in Tasman Bay and 1 year in Pegasus Bay. Meuschenia scaber females tended to display heavier and larger body size than males at all three locations. Sex ratios varied among populations and with depth, suggesting females in the Hauraki Gulf and Tasman Bay may move into deeper water with age. Given the increasing global exploitation of monacanthids in multispecies fisheries and their long-living nature, our results provide valuable age-based demographic information essential for future conservation, monitoring and management programs.

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The authors would like to thank P. Caiger, P. Browne and B. Doak for their assistance in the field and J.H. Choat for his comments on the manuscript. This study was supported by the Ministry for Primary Industries and University of Auckland Partnership Postgraduate Scholarships Fund. Any opinions expressed in this paper are those of the authors and not MPI.

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The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest. This study was supported by the Ministry for Primary Industries and University of Auckland Partnership postgraduate Scholarships Fund. Any opinions expressed in this paper are those of the authors and not MPI.

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All applicable international, national, and/or institutional guidelines for sampling were followed in the current study. All fish samples were collected in accordance with the University of Auckland Animal Ethics Committee approvals 001047 and 001676.

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Visconti, V., Trip, E.D.L., Griffiths, M.H. et al. Geographic variation in life-history traits of the long-lived monacanthid Meuschenia scaber (Monacanthidae). Mar Biol 167, 18 (2020).

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