, Volume 175, Issue 4, pp 1201–1210 | Cite as

Variability in size-selective mortality obscures the importance of larval traits to recruitment success in a temperate marine fish

  • Hannah M. MurphyEmail author
  • Fletcher W. Warren-Myers
  • Gregory P. Jenkins
  • Paul A. Hamer
  • Stephen E. Swearer
Population ecology - Original research


In fishes, the growth-mortality hypothesis has received broad acceptance as a driver of recruitment variability. Recruitment is likely to be lower in years when the risk of starvation and predation in the larval stage is greater, leading to higher mortality. Juvenile snapper, Pagrus auratus (Sparidae), experience high recruitment variation in Port Phillip Bay, Australia. Using a 5-year (2005, 2007, 2008, 2010, 2011) data set of larval and juvenile snapper abundances and their daily growth histories, based on otolith microstructure, we found selective mortality acted on larval size at 5 days post-hatch in 4 low and average recruitment years. The highest recruitment year (2005) was characterised by no size-selective mortality. Larval growth of the initial larval population was related to recruitment, but larval growth of the juveniles was not. Selective mortality may have obscured the relationship between larval traits of the juveniles and recruitment as fast-growing and large larvae preferentially survived in lower recruitment years and fast growth was ubiquitous in high recruitment years. An index of daily mortality within and among 3 years (2007, 2008, 2010), where zooplankton were concurrently sampled with ichthyoplankton, was related to per capita availability of preferred larval prey, providing support for the match–mismatch hypothesis. In 2010, periods of low daily mortality resulted in no selective mortality. Thus both intra- and inter-annual variability in the magnitude and occurrence of selective mortality in species with complex life cycles can obscure relationships between larval traits and population replenishment, leading to underestimation of their importance in recruitment studies.


Early life history Match–mismatch hypothesis Snapper Pagrus auratus Recruitment dynamics 



We would like to acknowledge Silvana Acevedo, Dean Chamberlain, Julia Kent, Andrew Brown, Tim Kenner, Jessica Hommelhoff, Annique Harris, and Camila Martins for help in the field and laboratory. Fish Ageing Services prepared the juvenile otoliths for age analysis. The manuscript was greatly improved by the comments from two anonymous reviewers. This project was funded by an Australian Research Council Linkage Grant (LP0989432) between the Department of Primary Industries, Fisheries Victoria, and the University of Melbourne. Port of Melbourne Corporation was an additional funding source.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Hannah M. Murphy
    • 1
    • 2
    • 4
    Email author
  • Fletcher W. Warren-Myers
    • 1
    • 2
  • Gregory P. Jenkins
    • 1
  • Paul A. Hamer
    • 3
  • Stephen E. Swearer
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of ZoologyUniversity of MelbourneParkvilleAustralia
  2. 2.Victorian Marine Science ConsortiumQueenscliffAustralia
  3. 3.Department of Environment and Primary IndustriesFisheries VictoriaQueenscliffAustralia
  4. 4.Centre for Fisheries Ecosystems Research, Fisheries and Marine InstituteMemorial University of NewfoundlandSt John’sCanada

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