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Population dynamics of Arctica islandica off Long Island (USA): an analysis of sex-based demographics and regional comparisons

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The boreal bivalve Arctica islandica is an important fishery in the United States (US), yet very little is known about the resiliency of this species to fishing activity due to limited understanding of localized population demographics. Demographics including age frequency, recruitment patterns, mortality rates, and sexual dimorphism were evaluated for a population sampled off Long Island (LI, 40.09658°N 73.01057°W) and compared with samples from Georges Bank (GB, 40.72767°N, 67.79850°W) collected in 2015 and 2017, where GB was described in a previous study. This study supports evidence that this species is sexually dimorphic. Earlier assumptions of prolonged lapses in recruitment were not substantiated for either the GB or LI populations; yearly cohorts were observed for the past century, and both populations presented recruitment pulses in approximately 8-y periods. Estimated ages from this study are older than previously reported for the US Mid-Atlantic with the oldest animal represented by a 310-year-old male collected from LI. Simulated total mortality was higher at GB than LI, and higher for GB females than GB males, with simulated mean longevity estimates greater at LI than GB. The population sex ratio at GB was 1:1.1 (female:male), whereas the LI ratio was 1:1.4 and relatively deficient in large females. Recruitment into the populations occurs routinely with substantial hiatuses being rare and substantive year classes occurring at least decadally with lesser, but contributing, recruitment in most years in between. Routine recruitment may insulate this species from risks posed by overfishing to an extent not typical for other long-lived species.

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The datasets produced during the current study are available to the public by reasonable request to the corresponding author.


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The authors would like to acknowledge the Seawatch International crew from the F/V E.S.S. Pursuit for their assistance with field sample collection and the use of their industry gear and personnel. Additionally, the Northeast Fisheries Science Center Fishery Biology Program and Population Dynamics Branch (particularly Dr. Daniel Hennen and Eric Robillard) who provided expert training in ocean quahog management and the development of an age-reader error protocol. Finally, the authors would like to thank the reviewers for their comments and edits.


This research was financially supported by the National Science Foundation (NSF) Science Center for Marine Fisheries (SCEMFIS), an Industry/University Cooperative Research Center, under NSF awards (Grant numbers 1266057 and 1841112), through membership fees provided by the SCEMFIS Industry Advisory Board, and an NSF Non-academic Research Internship for Graduate Students mentored through the NMFS-Northeast Fisheries Science Center.

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Data collection and archival work was performed by Dr. Roger Mann, Dr. Eric N. Powell, Sara Pace, and Theresa Redmond. Samples were processed by Theresa Redmond and Dr. Kathleen M. Hemeon. Samples were aged by Dr. Kathleen M. Hemeon. Age-reader error analyses were performed by Dr. Kathleen M. Hemeon, Sara Pace, Dr. Roger Mann, and Theresa Redmond. Statistical analyses were performed by Dr. Kathleen M. Hemeon and Dr. Eric N. Powell. The manuscript draft was written by Dr. Kathleen M. Hemeon. All authors edited and approved the final manuscript.

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Correspondence to Kathleen M. Hemeon.

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Hemeon, K.M., Powell, E.N., Pace, S.M. et al. Population dynamics of Arctica islandica off Long Island (USA): an analysis of sex-based demographics and regional comparisons. Mar Biol 170, 34 (2023).

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