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

Variable growth band deposition leads to age and growth uncertainty in the western wobbegong shark, Orectolobus hutchinsi

Justin A. Chidlow A D , Colin A. Simpfendorfer B and Garry R. Russ C

A Western Australian Fisheries and Marine Research Laboratories, PO Box 20, North Beach, WA 6920, Australia.

B School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, James Cook University, Townsville, Qld 4811, Australia.

C School of Marine Biology and Aquaculture, James Cook University, Townsville, Qld 4811, Australia.

D Corresponding author. Email: justin.chidlow@fish.wa.gov.au

Marine and Freshwater Research 58(9) 856-865 https://doi.org/10.1071/MF06249
Submitted: 21 December 2006  Accepted: 22 August 2007   Published: 4 October 2007

Abstract

Age and growth parameters of Orectolobus hutchinsi were estimated using micro-radiographs of sectioned vertebrae from 182 wild caught individuals. Two fluorochrome marker dyes, calcein and oxytetracycline, were used to validate the timing and periodicity of vertebral band formation in nine individuals held in the laboratory for between 423 and 472 days. Growth bands were difficult to interpret and final counts were obtained from only 98 (53.8%) individuals ranging in total length (TL) from 63 to 146 cm. The timing of growth band formation in the vertebrae of captive animals had no predictable temporal pattern, with formation occurring during all seasons of the year, making age validation difficult. Growth band formation was hypothesised to be influenced by non-periodic changes in centrum or somatic growth rather than seasonal growth, as observed in many other elasmobranch species. Growth rates of nine O. hutchinsi held in captivity varied considerably, ranging from 3.5 cm year–1 to 13.8 cm year–1 in total length (mean = 7.03 cm year–1). Although the periodicity of vertebral band formation in captive animals did not support a synchronous annual pattern, captive growth rates matched those predicted when an annual band pattern was assumed for wild caught individuals. Von Bertalanffy growth parameters estimated from vertebral analysis assuming an annual banding pattern and a mean size of birth of 24.1 cm were: L = 149.45 cm and K = 0.117 year–1 for both sexes combined. These results illustrate the fundamental importance of validating the periodicity of growth band formation in elasmobranch age and growth studies as it has considerable implications for the management of fisheries that exploit shark and ray species that may exhibit asynchronous growth band deposition.

Additional keywords: fluorochrome marker dyes, micro-radiograph, vertebral ageing.


Acknowledgements

We thank the commercial shark fishers of Western Australia who kindly and generously provided access to their vessels for data and sample collection. Thanks also to the rock lobster fishers who supplied live specimens for the age and growth experiment. The staff at the Department of Fisheries, Western Australia were invaluable to this project and special thanks go to Adrian Kitchingman and Rory McAuley for their help in collecting and processing samples. We would also like to say a special thank you to Lee Higgins who X-rayed samples, provided assistance with vertebrae preparation and feeding of captive Orectolobus hutchinsi. Thanks to Ivan Lightbody who assisted in aquarium setup and maintenance. Thanks to Michelle Heupel for the advice on calcein injection and assistance in processing captive O. hutchinsi. The recommendations provided by Rick Officer in the use of fluorochrome dyes are gratefully acknowledged. We would like to thank Dan Gaughan, Rory McAuley, Rod Lenanton and Nick Caputi for their comments on the manuscript.


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