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Investigation into the Occurrence of Juvenile Common Snook Centropomus undecimalis, a Subtropical Estuarine Sport Fish, in Saltmarshes Beyond Their Established Range

Abstract

Given recent trends of warming water temperatures and shifting fish distributions, detecting range expansion is important for resource management and planning. The subtropical common snook Centropomus undecimalis (hereafter referred to as snook) is an estuarine species that historically extended from the tropics to southern portions of Florida and Texas, but this range has been expanding for the past decade. We collected juvenile snook (n = 16; size range = 96–210-mm standard length [SL]) in saltmarshes of South Carolina, which is well outside their usual range but not unprecedented. Growth rates of juvenile snook in South Carolina (0.72-mm SL d−1) were similar to those reported for Florida during a cold period, but faster than rates reported for Florida during a recent period of mild winters (0.49-mm SL d−1). Based on collection and estimated hatch dates, and supported by winter water temperature records, juvenile snook overwintered for at least 1 year allowing them to grow to sizes that are typical for emigration from nursery habitats to open estuarine shorelines. Continued work is needed to determine whether there is potential for ongoing range expansion of snook to the region, and a strategy is proposed to focus on future research.

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Acknowledgments

We would like to thank faculty, staff, and students from the University of South Carolina’s Baruch Marine Field Laboratory (B. Pfirrmann, W. Strosnider), Coastal Carolina University (G. Herigan, J. McNabb), and others for their assistance with this study.

Funding

Field efforts were supported by the Belle W. Baruch Foundation Harry M. Lightsey, Jr. Visiting Scholar program, and the Bonefish & Tarpon Trust (BTT). Aging was supported with funds collected from the State of Florida Saltwater Fishing License sales, US Department of the Interior, US Fish and Wildlife Service, and Federal Aid for Sport Fish Restoration to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

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Correspondence to Philip W. Stevens.

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This research was conducted in accordance with the guidelines set forth in University of South Carolina IACUC Animal Care and Use Protocols #2338-101197-030317 and #2484-101488-030420.

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Communicated by Matthew D. Taylor

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Stevens, P.W., Kimball, M.E., Elmo, G.M. et al. Investigation into the Occurrence of Juvenile Common Snook Centropomus undecimalis, a Subtropical Estuarine Sport Fish, in Saltmarshes Beyond Their Established Range. Estuaries and Coasts 44, 1477–1483 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12237-020-00884-0

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s12237-020-00884-0

Keywords

  • Age
  • Estuary
  • Growth
  • Juvenile
  • North Inlet–Winyah Bay
  • Overwintering