Age, growth, and long-distance dispersal in the western North Atlantic of vexillifer larvae of the pearlfish, Echiodon dawsoni, with notes on Carapus bermudensis (Ophidiiformes: Carapidae)


We examined 120 vexillifer larvae of Echiodon dawsoni and 40 of Carapus bermudensis collected from the continental shelf and slope of the Gulf of Mexico and the western North Atlantic to Nova Scotia. Age was estimated for a subset of vexillifers, from which otoliths (sagittae) were excised and growth increments were recognizable, and a linear, estimated age at length relation was constructed. Spawning appeared to be year round for both species across their range. All estimated age classes of Ec. dawsoni were collected south of 35 °N, but north of 35 °N all vexillifers of Ec. dawsoni were older than 55 days. Only one C. bermudensis was collected north of 35 °N. The occurrence of vexillifers of Ec. dawsoni north of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, USA, indicates long-distance dispersal to inhospitable habitats and might be related to their spawning farther offshore than C. bermudensis, in regions where their vexillifers are more likely to be entrained into the Gulf Stream and transported northeastward.

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This paper was written in memory of our friend and colleague, John Edward Olney, who pioneered comprehensive work on larval carapids in the western North Atlantic. Sorting and identification of larvae was done by R. Robbins (NOAA, Beaufort Laboratory, Beaufort, North Carolina, USA), M. Konieczna and H. Skolska (Sea Fisheries Institute, Plankton Sorting and Identification Center, Szczecin and Gadynia, Poland), A. M. Quattrini, (University of North Carolina, Wilmington), and L. Van Guelpen (Hunstman Marine Science Centre, St. Andrews, New Brunswick, Canada), who also made available SSIP data. J. W. Smith, K. P. Riley, and P. M. Marraro reviewed drafts of the manuscript. K. P. Riley also assisted in data analysis, and J. A. Morris Jr. and A. Malhotra with graphics (NOAA, Beaufort Laboratory, Beaufort, N.C., USA). Reference to trade names does not imply endorsement by the U. S. Government.

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Correspondence to John J. Govoni.

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Govoni, J.J., Terwilliger, M. & Markle, D.F. Age, growth, and long-distance dispersal in the western North Atlantic of vexillifer larvae of the pearlfish, Echiodon dawsoni, with notes on Carapus bermudensis (Ophidiiformes: Carapidae). Ichthyol Res 62, 409–419 (2015).

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  • Echiodon dawsoni
  • Carapus bermudensis
  • Vexillifers
  • Growth
  • Dispersal