Illuminating otoliths: New insights for life history of Balistes triggerfishes
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Illuminating otoliths: New insights for life history of Balistes triggerfishes

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  • Journal Title:
    Journal of Fish Biology
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    Our understanding of fish life‐history strategies is informed by key biological processes, such as growth, survival/mortality, recruitment and sexual maturation, used to characterize fish stocks (populations). Characterizing the life‐history traits of fish populations requires the application of accurate age estimation for managed species. Grey triggerfish Balistes capriscus and queen triggerfish Balistes vetula are important reef‐associated species for commercial and recreational fisheries in the Atlantic Ocean. Both species exhibit a unique reproductive strategy for large‐bodied fisheries‐targeted reef fishes in that they are nesting benthic spawners and invest substantial energy in defence and care of their benthic nests and fertilized eggs. Until recently, our understanding of the life‐history strategies of triggerfishes assumed the main method used to obtain age estimates, increments counted from thin sections of the first dorsal spine, provided an accurate characterization of population age‐based parameters. However, results from bomb radiocarbon validation studies on the two Balistes species demonstrated that spines do not provide accurate ages, but sagittal otoliths do. The main goal of the current study was to provide an updated understanding for triggerfish life‐history strategies by using otolith‐based age estimates to characterize population age structure and growth for grey triggerfish and queen triggerfish from waters of the south‐eastern U.S. Atlantic. The current study is the first to report on sex‐specific age and growth information for grey triggerfish using the Δ14C‐validated otolith‐based age estimation method and the results indicate that the previous characterization of Balistes species as exhibiting moderately rapid growth and as relatively short‐lived, based on spine‐derived age estimates, are flawed. Otolith‐based ages indicated that grey triggerfish and queen triggerfish are moderately slow‐growing and long‐lived species, attaining maximum ages of 21 and 40 years, respectively. Management efforts for triggerfishes should evaluate these new insights and incorporate the results of otolith‐based age estimation into future population monitoring efforts.
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    Journal of Fish Biology, 101(6), 1557-1568
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    CC BY
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