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Distribution, abundance, and habitat characteristics of juvenile tautog (Tautoga onitis, family labridae) in Narragansett Bay, Rhode Island, 1988–1992

Abstract

Estuarine nursery areas are critical for successful recruitment of tautog (Tautoga onitis), yet they have not been studied over most of this species' range. Distribution, abundance and habitat characteristics of young-of-the-year (YOY, age 0) and age 1+juvenile tautog were evaluated during 1988–1992 in the Narragansett Bay estuary, Rhode Island, using a 16-station, beach-seine survey. Estuary-wide abundance was similar among years. Greatest numbers of juveniles were collected at northern Narragansett Bay stations between July and September. Juvenile abundances varied with density of macroalgal and eelgrass cover; abundances ranged from 0.03 fish per 100 m2 to 8.1 fish per 100 m2. Although juveniles use eelgrass, macroalgae is the dominant vegetative cover in Narragansett Bay. Macroalgal habitats play a previously unrealized, important role and contribute to successful recruitment of juvenile tautog in Narragansett Bay. Juvenile abundances did not vary with sediment type or salinity, but were correlated with surface water temperature. Fish collected in June were age 1+ juveniles from the previous year-class (50–167 mm TL) and these declined in number after July or August. The appearance of YOY (25–30 mm TL) in July and August was coincident with the period of their greatest abundances. A precipitous decline in abundance occurred by October because of the individual or combined effects of mortality and movement to alternative habitats. Based on juvenile abundance, a previously unidentified spawning area was noted in Mount Hope Bay, a smaller embayment attached to the northeastern portion of Narragansett Bay. In August 1991, Hurricane Bob disrupted juvenile sise distribution and abundance, resulting in reduced numbers of YOY collected after the storm and few 1+ juveniles in 1992.

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Correspondence to Barbara A. Dorf.

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Dorf, B.A., Powell, J.C. Distribution, abundance, and habitat characteristics of juvenile tautog (Tautoga onitis, family labridae) in Narragansett Bay, Rhode Island, 1988–1992. Estuaries 20, 589–600 (1997). https://doi.org/10.2307/1352617

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Keywords

  • Macroalgae
  • Ulva
  • Surface Water Temperature
  • Cover Density
  • Tautogolabrus Adspersus