New insights into the early life ecology of Sardina pilchardus (Walbaum, 1792) in the northern Iberian Atlantic


  • Sandra Ramos Laboratory of Hydrobiology, Institute of Biomedical Sciences, University of Porto
  • Pedro Ré Faculdade de Ciências da Universidade de Lisboa, Laboratório Marítimo da Guia / Centro de Oceanografia
  • Adriano A. Bordalo Laboratory of Hydrobiology, Institute of Biomedical Sciences, University of Porto



Sardina pilchardus, larval stages, spawning strategy, environmental forcing, upwelling, Lima River estuary


In the Atlantic Iberian estuaries, sardines tend to be a minor component of the ichthyoplankton assemblages, with rare occurrence largely restricted to estuarine mouths. However, this was not the case of the Lima estuary (NW Portugal), where sardines were the most abundant and frequently occurring marine taxon of the larval fish assemblages. Abundance of sardines collected during a two-year survey (2002-2004) ranged from 0.5 to 60.8 larvae/100 m3, with the majority still showing yolk and unpigmented eyes. Moreover, 80% of sardines were 8 days old or less and the total length ranged from 2 to 16 mm. Seasonal variations of sardine occurrence in the Lima estuary correlated with temporal variations of salinity and temperature in the water column. The unusually high river-flow observed during the winter of 2002-2003, which preceded the spring-summer abundance peak, seemed to act as a signal for the estuarine recruitment that was encountered. In addition, the estuarine occurrence of sardine larvae was also correlated with the intensity of summer upwelling, which was responsible for coastal depletion of sardine larvae resulting in estuarine low catches during the summer of 2002. The Lima estuary also revealed another peculiarity related to the lack of temporal synchrony between coastal spawning activity and occurrence of larvae within the estuary. The abundance peaks of newly-hatched larvae (autumn 2002 and spring-summer 2003) did not coincide with the winter-spring spawning pattern described earlier for the northern Iberian coast. Modifications of the spawning strategy of the northern Iberian sardine stock are discussed based on these new insights into the early life of S. pilchardus.


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Author Biographies

Sandra Ramos, Laboratory of Hydrobiology, Institute of Biomedical Sciences, University of Porto

Centro Interdisciplinar de Investigação Marinha e Ambiental (CIIMAR), Portugal

Adriano A. Bordalo, Laboratory of Hydrobiology, Institute of Biomedical Sciences, University of Porto

Centro Interdisciplinar de Investigação Marinha e Ambiental (CIIMAR), Portugal


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How to Cite

Ramos S, Ré P, Bordalo AA. New insights into the early life ecology of Sardina pilchardus (Walbaum, 1792) in the northern Iberian Atlantic. scimar [Internet]. 2009Sep.30 [cited 2022Nov.30];73(3):449-5. Available from: