Size-effect, asymmetry, and small-scale spatial variation in otolith shape of juvenile sole in the Southern North Sea

  • Sophie Delerue-RicardEmail author
  • Hanna Stynen
  • Léo Barbut
  • Fabien Morat
  • Kelig Mahé
  • Pascal I. Hablützel
  • Kris Hostens
  • Filip A. M. Volckaert


While otolith shape analysis can provide a valuable tool for discriminating between fish populations, factors which may influence otolith shape, such as the effect of size, directional asymmetry in growth, and local environmental conditions, are often unknown. Here, we analyzed differences in otolith shape across three size classes of age-0 common sole Solea solea L. from nursery grounds off the Belgian coast and in the Wadden Sea. Across size classes, form-factor decreased and roundness remained consistently high in both nursery grounds, while ellipticity increased in the Belgian nursery. Directional asymmetry between left and right otoliths measured by Fourier coefficients accounted for 0.96 and 7.2% of the variance when comparing otoliths overall, and for each size class, respectively. Within the Belgian nursery, results were consistent across sampling years and locations. In addition, otolith shape was marginally different between nursery grounds, but highly variable within nursery grounds. A small divergent group, which seems partly related to fish size, was noted at both spatial and temporal scales. Based on these results and before embarking on a study of population structure using otolith shape in age-0 common sole, we recommend testing for directional asymmetry and fish size effects across the entire region of interest.


Early-life stages Fourier coefficients Nursery ground Otolith shape Small-scale spatial structure 



Special thanks to K. Vanhalst (Institute for Agricultural and Fisheries Research, ILVO), the crew of RV Simon Stevin and RV Belgica, L. Bolle (Wageningen Marine Research), the crew of RV Stern, and the B-FishConnect Team for sampling. We are grateful to E. De Keyser, H. Christiansen, F. M. Heindler, F. Calboli (KU Leuven), B. Ernande (Ifremer), G. Lacroix (Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences, RBINS), A. Vanden Bavière, J. Robbens (ILVO), and M. R. Siskey (Stony Brook University) for constructive comments. The B-FishConnect Project was funded by the Research Foundation: Flanders (Project Number G.0702.13N). Thanks also to three anonymous reviewers, who provided many helpful comments.

Data availability

The datasets generated and analyzed during the current study are available from the corresponding author on reasonable request.

Supplementary material

10750_2018_3736_MOESM1_ESM.eps (563 kb)
Supplementary material 1 Fig. S1 Cluster dendrogram of the similarity distances of the Fourier coefficients of ten randomly chosen otoliths of juvenile sole, based on Ward’s distance. Picture numbers range from 1 to 40, with four consecutive pictures (e.g., 1–4, 5–8, etc.) being from the same otolith (EPS 562 kb)
10750_2018_3736_MOESM2_ESM.eps (89 kb)
Supplementary material 2 Fig. S2 Boxplot of roundness for 314 age-0 sole juveniles of sole at three size classes for each dataset (BE2013, BE2014 and NL2014) (EPS 89 kb)
10750_2018_3736_MOESM3_ESM.eps (309 kb)
Supplementary material 3 Fig. S3 Cluster dendrogram of the similarity distances of the Fourier coefficients of the juvenile sole sampled at the Belgian and Wadden Sea nursery grounds in 2014 (a) and at the Belgian nursery in 2013 and 2014 (b) using a complete hierarchical clustering method, based on Ward’s distance (EPS 309 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Laboratory of Biodiversity and Evolutionary Genomics (LBEG)KU LeuvenLouvainBelgium
  2. 2.Institute for Agricultural and Fisheries ResearchOstendBelgium
  3. 3.Operational Directorate Natural Environment (OD Nature)Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences (RBINS)BrusselsBelgium
  4. 4.PSL Research University: EPHE-UPVD-CNRS, USR3278 CRIOBEPerpignanFrance
  5. 5.Laboratoire d’Excellence «CORAIL»MooréaFrench Polynesia
  6. 6.Ifremer, Fisheries LaboratorySclerochronology CentreBoulogneFrance
  7. 7.Flanders Marine Institute (VLIZ)OstendBelgium

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