Direct evidence of a mesopelagic fish, Melanostigma atlanticum (Zoarcidae) spawning within bottom sediments

Synopsis

Adult Melanostigma atlanticum were observed living 15 to 32 cm deep within sediment box cores from 350 m depth in the Laurentian Trough of the Maritime Estuary of the St. Lawrence. The fish were found in fluid pockets or burrows of brown-coloured (oxygenated) silty clay within the anoxic zone of the sediment. In August 1983, four individuals (3 male and 1 female) were recovered from pockets located 15 and 32 cm below the sediment surface. All specimens were greater than 100 mm in length, had empty stomachs, and the female carried no eggs. In July 1985, 6 individuals (1 male and 5 females) were found in a head to tail arrangement within a single burrow at 18–20 cm depth. Three of the females carried eggs, while two appeared to have already released their eggs. A cluster of about 50 large eggs, some of which appeared to have been fertilized, was also found in the burrow. Most of the stomachs were empty, but one contained two copepods, another a proceroid cestode, and others contained between 4–22 parasitic hemiurid trematodes. These observations indicate that burrowing into bottom sediments is important in the reproductive behaviour of M. atlanticum.

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Silverberg, N., Edenborn, H.M., Ouellet, G. et al. Direct evidence of a mesopelagic fish, Melanostigma atlanticum (Zoarcidae) spawning within bottom sediments. Environ Biol Fish 20, 195–202 (1987). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00004954

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Key words

  • Burrowing fish
  • Benthic infauna
  • Reproductive behaviour
  • Demersal phase