Scientia Marina, Vol 73, No S1 (2009)

What can size distributions within cohorts tell us about ecological processes in fish larvae?

Arild Folkvord
Department of Biology, University of Bergen, Norway

Øyvind Fiksen
Department of Biology, University of Bergen, Norway

Hans Høie
Department of Biology, University of Bergen - Institute of Marine Research, Norway

Arne Johannessen
Department of Biology, University of Bergen, Norway

Erling Otterlei
Department of Biology, University of Bergen - Sagafjord Sea Farm, Norway

Knut Wiik Vollset
Department of Biology, University of Bergen, Norway


Marine fish larvae are subject to variable environments, which is probably reflected in their growth and survival rates. Mortality rates are generally high and size-dependent. At the species level, these mortality rates are usually accompanied by correspondingly high growth rates. Here we provide examples from experimental studies with Atlantic cod (Gadus morhua) and Atlantic herring (Clupea harengus) larvae, in which multiple cohorts were followed over time. Body size, prey concentrations, and temperature are shown to influence growth rates. We present a method based on cumulative size distributions (CSDs) for visualizing variability of sizes within cohorts over time. Analysis of CSDs revealed size-selective mortality and variations among populations in size- and temperature-dependent growth throughout ontogeny. We found that cod larvae consistently exhibit higher growth rates than herring larvae. While cod larvae may have an advantage over herring larvae when food availability is high, herring were more able to survive at low food concentrations than cod. Cod and herring seem to represent two growth strategies: cod larvae are relatively small at hatching and a high growth rate appears to be a prerequisite for success, whereas herring larvae are initially large, but grow more slowly.


growth strategies; life history; mortality; prey concentration; size distribution; temperature; trade-off

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