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

Sex-specific differences in growth, mortality and migration support population resilience in the heavily exploited migratory marine teleost Mugil cephalus (Linnaeus 1758)

John Stewart A B , Anne-Marie Hegarty A , Caitlin Young A and Ashley M. Fowler A
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A NSW Department of Primary Industries, Sydney Institute of Marine Science, Chowder Bay Road, Mosman, NSW 2088, Australia.

B Corresponding author. Email: john.stewart@dpi.nsw.gov.au

Marine and Freshwater Research - https://doi.org/10.1071/MF17135
Submitted: 15 May 2017  Accepted: 20 September 2017   Published online: 5 December 2017

Abstract

Understanding mechanisms supporting the resilience of exploited fish populations is fundamental to sustainable management. Herein we identify sex-specific differences in life history traits that confer resilience in the heavily exploited population of Mugil cephalus along eastern Australia. M. cephalus in this region emigrate from estuaries and undergo an annual northerly spawning migration that is dominated by males. Males mature, on average, at younger ages than females and were most abundant in the spawning migration at age-4, whereas females were most abundant at age-5. Females grew significantly faster and larger than males, with both sexes being aged up to 14 years. These sex-specific differences relate directly to the population stability of M. cephalus under the reproductive strategy of a spawning migration. Males participate in the spawning migration at younger ages and in greater numbers than females to ensure a sufficient number of males for successful spawning. Females partition more energy to growth than males, maturing and participating in the spawning migration at older ages and larger sizes. The larger body size of females is related to increased fecundity, increased survivorship and more efficient swimming ability. These traits, combined with population strategies of both delayed and skipped spawning, convey substantial resilience.

Additional keywords: fishery, mullet, reproductive resilience.


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