The Back-Calculation of Fish Growth From Otoliths

  • Laurent Vigliola
  • Mark G. Meekan
Part of the Reviews: Methods and Technologies in Fish Biology and Fisheries book series (REME, volume 11)


The earliest example of using earbones or otoliths to provide estimates of fish ages dates back to at least 1899 (Reibisch, cited in Jones 1992). Back-calculation to reconstruct growth patterns from hard parts of fish (otoliths, bones and scales) followed soon after (Lea 1910). The approach involves using measurements made on these bony structures to infer, or back-calculate, body length at ages prior to capture. Back-calculation has been used to generate individual growth histories of fishes for almost a century (Francis 1990) and has proved to be an invaluable tool for fisheries scientists and fish ecologists.


Growth Effect Somatic Growth Fish Size Fish Growth Fish Length 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Bagenal TB, Tesch FW (1978) Age and growth. In: Bagenal TB (Ed) Methods for assessment of fish production in fresh waters, 3rd Edition. Blackwell Scientific Publications, Oxford, UKGoogle Scholar
  2. Bang A, Gronkjaer P (2005) Otolith size at hatch reveals embryonic oxygen consumption in the zebrafish, Danio rerio. Mar Biol 147:1419–1423Google Scholar
  3. Brothers EB (1995) Session II. Overview II. In: Secor DH, Dean JM, Campana SE (Eds) Recent developments in fish otolith research. University of South Carolina Press, Columbia, SCGoogle Scholar
  4. Campana SE (1990) How reliable are growth back-calculations based on otoliths? Can J Fish Aquat Sci 47:2219–2227CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Campana SE (1992) Measurement and interpretation of the microstructure of fish otoliths. In: Stevenson DK, Campana SE (Eds) Otolith microstructure examination and analysis. Can Spec Publ Fish Aquat Sci 117:59–71Google Scholar
  6. Chambers RC, Miller TJ (1995) Statistical analysis of reconstructed life histories from otoliths: special properties of longitudinal data. In: Secor DH, Dean JM, Campana SE (Eds) Recent developments in fish otolith research. University of South Carolina Press, Columbia, SCGoogle Scholar
  7. Cock AG (1966) Genetical aspects of metrical growth and form in animals. Q Rev Biol 41:131–190CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  8. Doherty PJ, Dufour V, Galzin R, Hixon MA, Meekan MG, Planes S (2004) High mortality during settlement is a population bottleneck for a tropical surgeonfish. Ecology 85:2422–2428CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Escot C, Granado-Lorencio C (1999) Comparison of four methods of back-calculating growth using otoliths of a European barbel, Barbus sclateri (Günther) (Pisces: Cyprinidae). Mar Freshwater Res 50:83–88CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Fey DP (2006) The effect of temperature and somatic growth on otolith growth: the discrepancy between two clupeid species from a similar environment. J Fish Biol 69:794–806CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Finstad AG (2003) Growth backcalculations based on otoliths incorporating an age effect: adding an interaction term. J Fish Biol 62:1222–1225CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Francis RICC (1995) The analysis of otolith data. A mathematician’s perspective (what, precisely, is your model?). In: Secor DH, Dean JM, Campana SE (Eds) Recent developments in fish otolith research. University of South Carolina Press, Columbia, SCGoogle Scholar
  13. Francis RICC (1990) Back-calculation of fish length: a critical review. J Fish Biol 36:883–902CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Fraser CMcL (1916) Growth of the spring salmon. Trans Pacif Fish Soc 1915:29–39Google Scholar
  15. Fry FEJ (1943) A method for the calculation of the growth of fishes from scale measurements. Publ Ont Fish Res Lab 61:5–18Google Scholar
  16. Geffen AJ (1992) Validation of otolith increment deposition rate. In: Stevenson DK, Campana SE (Eds) Otolith microstructure examination and analysis. Can Spec Publ Fish Aquat Sci 117:101–113Google Scholar
  17. Gleason TR, Bengtson DA (1996) Size-selective mortality of inland silversides: evidence from otolith microstructure analysis. Trans Am Fish Soc 125:860–873CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Gould SJ (1966) Allometry and size in ontogeny and phylogeny. Biol Rev Cambridge Philos Soc 41:587–640CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Grimes CB, Isley JJ (1996) Influence of size selective mortality on growth of Gulf menhaden and King mackerel larvae. Trans Am Fish Soc 125:741–752CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Gutreuter S (1987) Considerations for estimation and interpretation of annual growth rates. In: Summerfelt RC, Hall GE (Eds) Age and growth of fish. Iowa State University Press, Ames, Iowa, pp 115–126Google Scholar
  21. Hare JA, Cowen RK (1995) Effect of age, growth rate, and ontogeny on the otolith size – fish size relationship in bluefish, Potamus saltatrix, and the implications for back-calculation of size in fish early life history stages. Can J Fish Aquat Sci 52:1909–1922Google Scholar
  22. Hovenkamp F (1992) Growth-dependent mortality of larval plaice Pleuronectes platessa in the North Sea. Mar Ecol Progr Ser 82:95–101CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Jones CM (1992) Development and application of the otolith increment technique. In: Stevenson DK, Campana SE (Eds) Otolith microstructure examination and analysis. Can Spec Publ Fish Aquat Sci 117:1–11Google Scholar
  24. Klumb RA, Bozek MA, Frie RV (2001) Validation of three back-calculation models by using multiple oxytetracycline marks formed in the otoliths and scales of bluegill × green sunfish hybrids. Can J Fish Aquat Sci 58:352–364CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Lea E (1910) On the methods used in the herring investigations. Publ Circ Cons Perm Int Explor Mer 53:7–25Google Scholar
  26. Lee RM (1920) A review of the methods of age and growth determination in fishes by means of scales. Fish Invest Lond Ser 24(2):1–32Google Scholar
  27. Macpherson E (1998) Ontogenetic shifts in habitat use and aggregation in juvenile sparid fishes. J Exp Mar Biol Ecol 220:127–150CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Meekan MG (1997) Relationships between otolith and somatic growth of cod larvae (Gadus morhua). J Plankton Res 19:167–169CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Meekan MG, Dodson JJ, Good SP, Ryan DAJ (1998) Otolith and fish size relationships, measurement error and size selective mortality during the early life of Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar). Can J Fish Aquat Sci 55:1666–1673Google Scholar
  30. Meekan MG, Fortier L (1996) Selection for fast growth during the larval life of Atlantic cod Gadus morhua on the Scotian Shelf. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 137:25–37CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Morita K, Matsuishi T (2001) A new model of growth back-calculation incorporating age effect based on otoliths. Can J Fish Aquat Sci 58:1805–1811CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Mosegaard H, Svedang H, Taberman K (1988) Uncoupling of somatic and otolith growth rates in arctic char (Salvelinus alpinus) as an effect of differences in temperature response. Can J Fish Aquat Sci 45:1514–1524CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Mugiya Y (1987) Phase difference between calcification and organic matrix formation in the diurnal growth of otoliths in the rainbow trout, Salmo gairderi. Fish Bull 85:395–401Google Scholar
  34. Mugiya Y (1990) Long-term effects of hypophysectomy on the growth and calcification of otoliths and scales in the goldfish, Carassius auratus. Zool Sci 7:273–279Google Scholar
  35. Pannella G (1971) Fish otoliths: daily growth layers and periodical patterns. Science 173:1124–1126CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Pannella G (1974) Otolith growth patterns: an aid in age determination in temperate and tropical fishes. In: Bagenal TB (Ed) Ageing of fish. Unwin Brothers, LondonGoogle Scholar
  37. Pinheiro JC, Bates DM (2000) Mixed-effects models in S and S-Plus. Springer-Verlag, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  38. Ricker WE (1969) Effects of size-selective mortality and sampling bias on estimates of growth, mortality, production and yield. J Fish Res Board Can 26:479–541Google Scholar
  39. Ricker WE (1975) Computation and interpretation of biological statistics of fish populations. Bull Fish Res Board Can 191:382ppGoogle Scholar
  40. Ricker WE (1979) Growth rates and models. In: Hoar WS, Randall DJ, Brett JR (Eds) Fish physiology, Vol. 8. Academic Press, Inc Publ, Orlando, FLGoogle Scholar
  41. Schirripa MJ (2002) An evaluation of back-calculation methodology using simulated otolith data. Fish Bull 100:789–799Google Scholar
  42. Secor DH, Dean JM (1989) Somatic growth effects on the otolith – fish size relationship in young pond-reared striped bass, Morone saxatilis. Can J Fish Aquat Sci 46:113–121CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Secor DH, Dean JM (1992) Comparison of otolith-based back-calculation methods to determine individual growth histories of larval striped bass, Morone saxatilis. Can J Fish Aquat Sci 49:1439–1454CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Secor DH, Dean JM, Baldevarona RB (1989) Comparison of otolith growth and somatic growth in larval and juvenile fishes based on otolith length/fish length relationships. Rapp P-V Réun Cons Int Explor Mer 191:431–438Google Scholar
  45. Sherriff CWM (1922) Herring investigations. Report on the mathematical analysis of random samples of herrings. Scient Invest Fishery Bd Scotl 1:25ppGoogle Scholar
  46. Sirois P, Lecomte F, Dodson JJ (1998) An otolith-based back-calculation method to account for time-varying growth rate in rainbow smelt (Osmerus mordax) larvae. Can J Fish Aquat Sci 55:2662–2671CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Smedstad OM, Holm JC (1996) Validation of back-calculation formulae for cod otoliths. J Fish Biol 49:973–985CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Sogard SM (1997) Size-selective mortality in the juvenile stage of teleost fishes: a review. Bull Mar Sci 41:423–431Google Scholar
  49. Stevenson DK, Campana SE (Ed) (1992) Otolith microstructure examination and analysis. Can Spec Publ Fish Aquat Sci 117:136ppGoogle Scholar
  50. Templeman W, Squires HJ (1956) Relationship of otolith lengths and weights in the haddock Melanogrammus aeglefinus (L.) to the rate of growth of the fish. J Fish Res Board Can 13:467–487Google Scholar
  51. Thomas RM (1983) Back-calculation and time of hyaline ring formation in the otoliths of the pilchard off South West Africa. S Afr J Mar Sci 1:3–18Google Scholar
  52. Tremblay G, Giguère LA (1992) Relation longueur/écaille allométrique chez le saumon atlantique (Salmo salar) durant la phase marine. Can J Fish Aquat Sci 49:46–51CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Venables WN, Ripley BD (2002) Modern applied statistics with S, 4th Edition. Springer, New York.Google Scholar
  54. Vigliola L, Doherty PJ, Meekan MG, Drown D, Jones ME, Barber PH (2007) Genetic identity determines risk of post-settlement mortality of a marine fish. Ecology 88(5):1263–1277CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  55. Vigliola L, Harmelin-Vivien M, Meekan MG (2000) Comparison of techniques of back-calculation of growth and settlement marks from the otoliths of three species of Diplodus from the Mediterranean Sea. Can J Fish Aquat Sci 57:1292–1299CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Vigliola L, Meekan MG (2002) Size at hatching and planktonic growth determine post-settlement survivorship of a coral reef fish. Oecologia 131:89–93CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Watanabe Y, Kuroki T (1997) Asymptotic growth trajectories of larval sardine (Sardinops melanostictus) in the coastal waters off western Japan. Mar Biol 127:369–378CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Webster MS, Almany GR (2006) The predation gauntlet: early post-settlement mortality in coral reef fishes. Coral Reefs 25:19–22CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Weisberg S (1993) Using hard-part increment data to estimate age and environmental effects. Can J Fish Aquat Sci 50:1229–1237CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Weisberg S, Frie RV (1987) Linear models for the growth of fish. In: Summerfelt RC, Hall GE (Eds) Age and growth of fish. Iowa State University Press, Ames, IowaGoogle Scholar
  61. Whitney RR, Carlander KD (1956) Interpretation of body-scale regression for computing body length of fish. J Wild Manage 20:21–27CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Wilson J, Osenberg CW (2002) Experimental and observational patterns of density-dependent settlement and survival in the marine fish Gobiosoma. Oecologia 130:205–215Google Scholar
  63. Wilson JA, Vigliola L, Meekan MG (2008) The back-calculation of size from otoliths: validation and comparison of models at an individual level. J Exp Mar Biol Ecol doi:10.1016/j.jembe.2008.09.005Google Scholar
  64. Wright PJ, Metcalfe NB, Thorpe JE (1990). Otolith and somatic growth rate in Atlantic salmon parr, Salmo salar L. Evidence against coupling. J Fish Biol 36:241–249CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institut de Recherche pour le DéveloppementPlouzanéFrance
  2. 2.Australian Institute of Marine ScienceCasuarinaAustralia

Personalised recommendations