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

Short-term decoupling of otolith and somatic growth induced by food level changes in postlarval Baltic sprat, Sprattus sprattus

Hannes Baumann A B , Myron A. Peck A and Jens-Peter Herrmann A
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A Institute of Hydrobiology and Fisheries Science, Olbersweg 24, 22767 Hamburg, Germany.

B Corresponding author. Email:

Marine and Freshwater Research 56(5) 539-547
Submitted: 12 July 2004  Accepted: 6 April 2005   Published: 21 July 2005


We studied the effects of food level changes on otolith and somatic growth in postlarval Baltic sprat reared initially for a period of 11 days under zero, low, and ad libitum feeding conditions. During a subsequent 11 day period, feeding regimes were reversed in half of the low and ad libitum feeding treatments, and starved fish were re-fed ad libitum rations. Somatic growth rates under low and ad libitum food rations ranged between 0.15–0.22 mm day-1 and 0.48–0.63 mm day-1, respectively, and led to significant differences in length and weight between feeding regimes. Previously starved fish, however, grew only 0.25–0.28 mm day-1 under ad libitum conditions. During the first period, significant linear relationships were found for otolith v. length and v. weight growth across all treatments. After changing feeding regimes, increment widths failed to significantly predict somatic growth for 9 days, after which a significant relationship between otolith and somatic growth became re-established. Recent otolith growth was a good predictor of fish condition after the first, but not after the second period. The results suggest that perturbations in environmental conditions can temporarily decouple otolith from somatic growth in postlarval sprat, which needs to be considered in field studies.

Extra keywords: alizarin, feeding experiment, postlarval sprat.


We are grateful to Arne Malzahn, Daniel Stepputtis, Christoph Petereit, and Bastian Huwer, who were of great help during the field sampling. Sven Staecker, Joachim Luetke, Linda Holste, and Kornelia Paul are thanked for their most reliable support during the conduction of the experiment. Both anonymous referees provided constructive criticism that helped to improve the manuscript. The present study was funded by the GLOBEC-Germany programme (FKZ 03F0320E).


Ali, M. , Nicieza, A. , and Wootton, R. J. (2003). Compensatory growth in fishes: a response to growth depression. Fish and Fisheries 4, 147–190.
CrossRef |

Alshut, S. (1988). Daily growth increments on otoliths of laboratory-reared sprat, Sprattus sprattus L., larvae. Meeresforschung 32, 23–29.

Baumann, H. , Pepin, P. , Davidson, F. J. M. , Mowbray, F. , Schnack, D. , and Dower, J. F. (2003). Reconstruction of environmental histories to investigate patterns of larval radiated shanny (Ulvaria subbifurcata) growth and selective survival in a large bay of Newfoundland. ICES Journal of Marine Science 60, 243–258.
CrossRef |

Brothers, E. B. (1981). What can otolith microstructure tell us about daily and sub-daily events in the early life-history of fish? Rapports et Proces-Verbaux des Reunions. Conseil International pour l’Exploration de la Mer 178, 393–394.

Campana, S. (1990). How reliable are growth back-calculations based on otoliths? Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences 47, 2219–2227.

Dickey, C. L. , and Isely, J. J. (1997). Slow growth did not decouple the otolith size-fish size relationship in Striped Bass. Transactions of the American Fisheries Society 126, 1027–1029.
CrossRef |

Folkvord, A. , Blom, G. , Johannessen, A. , and Moksness, E. (2000). Growth-dependent age estimation in herring (Clupea harengus) larvae. Fisheries Research 46, 91–103.
CrossRef |

Fowler, A. J. , and Jennings, P. R. (2003). Dynamics in 0+ recruitment and early life history for snapper (Pagrus auratus, Sparidae) in South Australia. Marine and Freshwater Research 54, 941–956.
CrossRef |

Froese R., and Pauly D. (Eds) (2004). ‘FishBase.’ Available at, verified June 2005.

García, A. , Cortés, D. , Ramírez, T. , Giráldez, A. , and Carpena, A. (2003). Contribution of larval growth rate variability to the recruitment of the Bay of Málaga anchovy (SW Mediterranean) during the 2000–2001 spawning season. Scientia Marina 67, 477–490.

Heath, M. R. (1992). Field investigations of the early life stages of marine fish. Advances in Marine Biology 28, 1–174.

Hjort, J. (1914). Fluctuations in the great fisheries of northern Europe viewed in the light of biological research. Rapports et Proces-Verbaux des Reunions. Conseil International pour l’Exploration de la Mer 20, 1–228.

Hunter, J. R. (1976). Culture and growth of northern anchovy, Engraulis mordax, larvae. Fisheries Bulletin NMFS/NOAA 74, 81–88.

Huuskonen, H. , and Karjalainen, J. (1998). A preliminary study on the relationships between otolith increment width, metabolic rate and growth in juvenile whitefish (Coregonus lavaretus L.). Archiv fuer Hydrobiologie 142, 371–383.

ICES (2003). Report of the Baltic Fisheries Assessment Group. ICES CM 2003/ACFM:21. International Council for the Exploration of the Sea, Copenhagen.

Jones M. C. (1992). Development and application of the otolith increment technique. In ‘Otolith Microstructure Examination and Analysis’. (Eds D. K. Stevenson and S. E. Campana.) Special Publication of the Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences 117, 1–11.

Lapolla, A. E. (2001). Bay anchovy Anchoa mitchilli in Narragansett Bay, Rhode Island. II. Spawning season, hatch-date distribution and young-of-the-year growth. Marine Ecology Progress Series 217, 103–109.

Maillet, G. L. , and Checkley, D. M. (1989). Effects of starvation on the frequency of formation and width of growth increments in sagittae of laboratory-reared Atlantic Menhaden Brevoortia tyrannus larvae. Fishery Bulletin 88, 155–165.

Marshall, S. L. , and Parker, S. S. (1982). Pattern identification in the microstructure of Sockeye Salmon (Oncorhynchus nerka). Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences 39, 542–547.

Massou, A. M. , Panfili, J. , Laë, R. , Baroiller, J. F. , Mikolasek, O. , Fontenelle, G. , and le Bail, P.-Y. (2002). Effects of different food restrictions on somatic and otolith growth in Nile tilapia reared under controlled conditions. Journal of Fish Biology 60, 1093–1104.
CrossRef |

Meekan, M. G. , and Fortier, L. (1996). Selection for fast growth during the larval life of Atlantic cod Gadus morhua on the Scotian Shelf. Marine Ecology Progress Series 137, 25–37.

Möllmann, C. , and Köster, F. W. (1999). Food consumption by clupeids in the Central Baltic: evidence for top-down control? ICES Journal of Marine Science 56, 100–113.
CrossRef |

Molony, B. W. (1996). Episodes of starvation are recorded in the otoliths of juvenile Abassis vachelli (Chandidae), a tropical estuarine fish. Marine Biology 125, 439–446.

Molony, B. W. , and Choat, J. H. (1990). Otolith increment widths and somatic growth rate: the presence of a time-lag. Journal of Fish Biology 37, 541–551.

Mosegaard, H. , Svedang, H. , and Taberman, K. (1988). Uncoupling of somatic and otolith growth rates in Arctic char (Salvelinus alpinus) as an effect of differences in temperature response. Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences 45, 1514–1524.

Neilson, J. D. , and Geen, G. H. (1985). Effects of feeding regimes and diel temperature cycles on otolith increment formation in juvenile Chinook salmon, Oncorhynchus tshawytscha. Fishery Bulletin 83, 91–101.

Panfili J., Pontual H. de, Troadec H., and Wright P. J. (Eds) (2002). ‘Manual of Fish Sclerochronology.’ (IFREMER-IRD: Brest, France.)

Paperno, R. , Targett, T. E. , and Grecay, P. A. (1997). Daily growth increments in otoliths of juvenile weakfish, Cynoscion regalis: experimental assessment of changes in increment width with changes in feeding rate, growth rate, and condition factor. Fishery Bulletin 95, 521–529.

Parma, A. M. , and Deriso, R. B. (1990). Dynamics of age and size composition in a population subject to size-selective mortality: effects of phenotypic variability in growth. Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences 47, 274–289.

Peck, M. A. , Clemmesen, C. , and Herrmann, J.-P. (2005). Ontogenetic changes in the allometric scaling of the mass and length relationship in Sprattus sprattus. Journal of Fish Biology 66, 882–887.
CrossRef |

Pepin, P. (1991). Effect of temperature and size on development, mortality, and survival rates of the pelagic early life history stages of marine fish. Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences 48, 503–518.

Pepin, P. , Dower, J. F. , and Benoit, H. P. (2001). The role of measurement error on the interpretation of otolith increment width in the study of growth in larval fish. Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences 58, 2204–2212.
CrossRef |

Pepin, P. , Dower, J. F. , and Davidson, F. J. M. (2003). A spatially explicit study of prey-predator interactions in larval fish: assessing the influence of food and predator abundance on larval growth and survival. Fisheries Oceanography 12, 19–33.
CrossRef |

Secor, D. H. , and Dean, J. M. (1989). Somatic growth effects on the otolith-fish size relationship in young pond-reared striped bass, Morone saxatilis. Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences 46, 113–121.

Shields R. J. (1989). Studies of growth and nutritional status in 0-group sprat, Sprattus sprattus (Clupeidae), using otolith microstructure and lipid analytical techniques. Ph.D. Thesis, University of Wales, Bangor.

Sogard, S. (1997). Size-selective mortality in the juvenile stage of teleost fishes: A review. Bulletin of Marine Science 60, 1129–1157.

Szedlmayer, S. T. (1998). Comparison of growth rate and formation of otolith increments in age-0 red snapper. Journal of Fish Biology 53, 58–65.
CrossRef |

Takahashi, M. , and Watanabe, Y. (2004). Growth rate-dependent recruitment of Japanese anchovy Engraulis japonicus in the Kuroshio-Oyashio transitional waters. Marine Ecology Progress Series 266, 227–238.

Titus, R. G. , and Mosegaard, H. (1991). Selection for growth potential among migratory brown trout (Salmo trutta) fry competing for territories: Evidence from otoliths. Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences 48, 19–27.

Ustinova L. (1990). Growth of the juvenile Baltic sprat. In ‘International Council for the Exploration of the Sea’. Conference Meeting 1990 J:7. ICES, Copenhagen.

Wright, P. J. , Metcalfe, N. B. , and Thorpe, J. E. (1990). Otolith and somatic growth rates in Atlantic salmon parr, Salmo salar L: evidence against coupling. Journal of Fish Biology 36, 241–249.

Rent Article (via Deepdyve) Export Citation Cited By (27)