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Age and growth characteristics of the Starry Skate, Raja stellulata, with a description of life history and habitat trends of the central California, U.S.A., skate assemblage

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Abstract

Skates are prevalent in fisheries worldwide, but rarely are they identified to species. This is of conservation and management concern since skates exhibit a broad range of life history characteristics. The present study investigated the age and growth of the Starry Skate, Raja stellulata, and compared it to other regional skates inhabiting the U.S. West Coast. Age and growth parameters were determined using two vertebral preparation techniques: gross sectioning and histological sectioning. Gross section age estimates ranged from zero to 11 years and growth was described by the two parameter von Bertalanffy growth function (2 VBGF; L  = 915 mm total length (TL) and k = 0.13 year-1; n = 189). Histological section age estimates ranged from zero to 15 years and growth was also described by the 2 VBGF (L  = 1092 mm TL, k = 0.06 year-1; n = 68). Histological section results reflect a more conservative life history, specifically a lower von Bertalanffy growth coefficient, but had slightly biased results and a smaller sample size than the gross section results. An age and depth trend was found within the central California skate assemblage, in which habitat depth and maximum age were positively correlated.

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Acknowledgments

We thank the anonymous reviewers, Churchill Grimes, Don Pearson, John Field, E.J. Dick, and Alec McCall of the Southwest Fisheries Science Center Santa Cruz; Elizabeth Clark, Beth Horness, Aimee Keller, Dan Kamikawa, Keith Bosley, Victor Simon, and Erica Fruh from the Northwest Fisheries Science Center Fisheries Resources Analysis and Monitoring Division for sample collection. A special thanks to the members of the Pacific Shark Research Center at Moss Landing Marine Laboratories: Shaara Ainsley, Jenny Bigman, Joe Bizzarro, Mariah Boyle, Simon Brown, Diane Haas, Jenny Kemper, James Knuckey, Erin Loury, Jasmine Maurer, Wade Smith, and Megan Winton for sample collection, processing, and all around support. Animal care approval was obtained from the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC #801) at San Jose State University. Funding was provided by the NOAA/NMFS National Shark Research Center and the Pacific Shark Research Center, the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, the Earl and Ethel Myers Oceanographic and Marine Biology Trust, and in part by the National Sea Grant College Program of the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration under NOAA Grant no. NA04OAR4170038, project number R/F-199, through the California Sea Grant College Program and in part by the California State Resources Agency.

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Correspondence to Kelsey C. James.

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James, K.C., Ebert, D.A., Natanson, L.J. et al. Age and growth characteristics of the Starry Skate, Raja stellulata, with a description of life history and habitat trends of the central California, U.S.A., skate assemblage. Environ Biol Fish 97, 435–448 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10641-013-0164-0

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