Marine and Freshwater Research Marine and Freshwater Research Society
Advances in the aquatic sciences
RESEARCH ARTICLE

Use of otolith chemistry and acoustic telemetry to elucidate migratory contingents in barramundi Lates calcarifer

D. A. Crook A E , D. J. Buckle A , Q. Allsop B , W. Baldwin B , T. M. Saunders A B , P. M. Kyne A , J. D. Woodhead C , Roland Maas C , Brien Roberts A and M. M. Douglas A D

A Research Institute for the Environment and Livelihoods, Charles Darwin University, Ellengowan Drive, Casuarina, NT 0909, Australia.

B Fisheries Research, Department of Primary Industry and Fisheries, Makagon Road, Berrimah, NT 0828, Australia.

C School of Earth Sciences, The University of Melbourne, Parkville, Vic. 3010, Australia.

D School of Earth and Environment, The University of Western Australia, 35 Stirling Highway, Perth, WA 6009, Australia.

E Corresponding author. Email: david.crook@cdu.edu.au

Marine and Freshwater Research - http://dx.doi.org/10.1071/MF16177
Submitted: 14 May 2016  Accepted: 26 October 2016   Published online: 14 December 2016

Abstract

Migration is a fundamental aspect of the life history of many fish and must be well understood for targeted conservation and management. We used acoustic telemetry and otolith 87Sr/86Sr analysis, in conjunction with annual ageing, to study intraspecific variation in barramundi Lates calcarifer migration in the Northern Territory, Australia. Acoustic transmitters were implanted into 25 barramundi (420–1010-mm total length (TL); median 510 mm TL) from freshwater reaches of the South Alligator River and their movements tracked over >2 years. 87Sr/86Sr transect analysis was also conducted on otoliths of 67 barramundi from the Daly, Mary, South Alligator and Roper rivers. Acoustic telemetry showed that most fish remained in fresh water across wet and dry seasons. Higher rates of movement occurred during the wet season and a minority of fish moved into the estuary during high flows. Otolith chemistry analyses revealed high diversity in salinity histories among individuals. We integrated the telemetry and otolith chemistry data to examine migration as a function of the stage of sexual development, and have proposed a revised life history model that identifies three migratory contingents. We conclude that anthropogenic disturbance, including modified river hydrology, has the potential to alter the frequency of life history contingents in barramundi populations.

Additional keywords: biochronology, contingent hypothesis, diadromy, fish migration, 87Sr/86Sr.


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