Unprecedented longevity of unharvested shallow-water snappers in the Indian Ocean


Identification of latitudinal trends in growth and maximum ages provides important insights into the vulnerability of coral reef fishes to human exploitation. Here, we sampled three species of unharvested tropical snappers from 4 locations along the tropical Western Australian coast and from the Chagos Archipelago in the central Indian Ocean. Interpretation of sectioned sagittal otoliths identified 2 species as the longest-lived tropical reef-associated fishes recorded to date, with a combined eleven specimens aged > 60 yrs, a single Lutjanus bohar aged 79 yrs and a single Macolor macularis aged 81 yrs (both from Rowley Shoals, Western Australia). These maximum ages are two decades greater than previous estimates of maximum age for reef fishes. Lifetimes of such long durations confirm the low rates of natural mortality for these species, their associated low production potential, and the need for effective systems of governance to enable sustainable harvests across the distributions of these species.

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Core funding for this study was provided by the Bertarelli Foundation as part of the Bertarelli Programme in Marine Science, the Australian Institute of Marine Science, and the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD), Western Australia. B.M.T. was supported by the Bertarelli Programme in Marine Science. Research in Western Australia was permitted by DPIRD and the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions. Collection efforts were subject to animal ethics review from the University of Western Australia. We thank P. McDowell and K. Brooks for assistance with collections, and two anonymous reviewers for their feedback.

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Taylor, B.M., Wakefield, C.B., Newman, S.J. et al. Unprecedented longevity of unharvested shallow-water snappers in the Indian Ocean. Coral Reefs 40, 15–19 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00338-020-02032-3

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  • Lifespan
  • Coral reefs
  • Growth
  • Lutjanidae
  • Otolith