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Article << Previous     |     Next >>   Contents Vol 61(11)

Estuarine geomorphology and low salinity requirement for fertilisation influence spawning site location in the diadromous fish, Galaxias maculatus

Andy Hicks A C, Nicole C. Barbee A D, Stephen E. Swearer A, Barbara J. Downes B

A Department of Zoology, University of Melbourne, Vic. 3010, Australia.
B Department of Resource Management and Geography, University of Melbourne, Vic. 3010, Australia.
C Present address: Department of Zoology, University of Otago, PO Box 56, Dunedin, New Zealand.
D Corresponding author. Email: nbarbee@unimelb.edu.au
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In habitats such as estuaries, which are characterised by large and fluctuating gradients in abiotic variables, finding appropriate habitat for successful spawning and egg development can be critical to a species’ survival. We explored how salinity requirements for successful fertilisation may govern the distribution of estuarine spawning habitat for the diadromous fish, Galaxias maculatus, which spawns in inundated vegetation on estuary banks during spring tides. Artificial fertilisation experiments confirmed that successful fertilisation only occurs at low salinities (<20). Thus, we predicted that egg distributions would depend upon the extent of low-salinity surface waters in an estuary. Using estuary geomorphology classification schemes, which classify estuaries by physical and chemical characteristics such as their salinity dynamics, we hypothesised that stratified estuaries would provide a greater extent of low salinity surface water than well-mixed estuaries. This prediction was supported by surveys of egg distributions in five estuaries in Victoria, Australia. Eggs were distributed over a greater proportion of ‘stratified’ v. ‘mixed’ estuary types. We suggest that combining knowledge of the spawning requirements of a species and physical properties of the habitat, such as those encapsulated in estuary geomorphic classification schemes, can greatly facilitate efforts to identify critical habitats and thus aid in species management and conservation.

Keywords: estuary geomorphology, fertilisation success, galaxiid, geomorphic classification, salt wedge.

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