Aquatic Ecology

, Volume 53, Issue 2, pp 281–294 | Cite as

Water temperature gradients drive early life-history patterns of the common sole (Solea solea L.) in the Northeast Atlantic and Mediterranean

  • Ana Catarina VazEmail author
  • Giuseppe Scarcella
  • Miguel A. Pardal
  • Filipe Martinho


The existence of a temperature gradient across latitudes is crucial to explain the patterns presented in the early life-history characteristics of marine fish species over large geographical areas. Hence, the aim of the present work was to analyse the temperature-related pattern in the early life-history events and characteristics of the common sole, Solea solea, along most of its geographical distribution area, focusing on key nursery areas for this species: Venice lagoon (Italy), Mondego estuary (Portugal), Vilaine estuary (France) and Balgzand (Netherlands). Otolith microstructure from metamorphosed age 0 juveniles was used to estimate age, the pelagic larval and metamorphosis stages duration, and the spawning period. A latitudinal cline was found for the main processes of the early life cycle: spawning started in December in the southernmost areas (Mondego estuary and Venice Lagoon) and in February in the Balgzand population. Hatching started earlier in the Venice lagoon, where warmer water temperatures in the winter led to an earlier development. The longest pelagic stage was observed in the French coast populations, which differed significantly from those of the Mediterranean, while metamorphosis lasted longer in the North Sea (Balgzand), when compared with the Portuguese Atlantic coast (Mondego). Populations further north were characterized by higher growth rates, suggesting an adaptation to local conditions. Despite that several abiotic factors play an important role in flatfish early life history, the observed temperature gradient seems to be one of the most important drivers.


Estuaries Nursery grounds Flatfish Solea solea Otolith microstructure Temperature patterns 



The authors would like to thank all the colleagues who have participated in field and laboratory work and to Dr. Henk van der Veer (Netherlands Institute for Sea Research—NIOZ) and Dr. Louis Quiniou (Université de Brest, Laboratoire des Sciences de l’Environnement Marin—LEMAR) for providing the samples from Dutch and French coasts, respectively. This work was supported by the Portuguese Foundation for Science and Technology (FCT) through the Investigador FCT programme attributed to Filipe Martinho (IF/01410/2012), with funds from the European Social Fund and the Portuguese Operational Human Potential Program (POPH), and through the project ReNATURE—Valorization of the Natural Endogenous Resources of the Centro Region (Centro 2020, Centro-01-0145-FEDER-000007). The comments of the two reviewers improved the final quality of the paper.


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© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Life Sciences, Centre for Functional Ecology (CFE)University of CoimbraCoimbraPortugal
  2. 2.Institute of Marine Science (ISMAR), Italian National Research Council (CNR)AnconaItaly

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