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

Estuarine Ichthyoplankton Ecology in Relation to Hydrology and Zooplankton Dynamics in salt-wedge Estuary

GM Newton

Marine and Freshwater Research 47(2) 99 - 111
Published: 1996


The ichthyoplankton assemblage of the Hopkins River estuary, Victoria, was dominated by estuarine taxa that included demersal (goby, gudgeon) and pelagic (black bream, estuary perch, anchovy) species. The two seasonal peaks in fish larvae abundance were related to (1) the spring/summer zooplankton increase that occurred after flooding of the estuary and was comprised predominantly of copepod nauplii, thereby providing a good prey field for very young fish larvae, and (2) the autumn zooplankton maxima, which would provide a wide selection of copepod stages and meroplankton and promote dietary partitioning and flexibility among older larval stages. The two peaks in fish larvae abundance occurred well before and well after the attainment of maximum water temperature in the estuary. Goby, gudgeon, estuary perch and anchovy larvae were in the plankton over an extended period coinciding with the more stable conditions of salt-wedge presence and maximum zooplankton densities. The spawning of black bream and anchovies in the estuary was clearly related to physical conditions, such as salinity and water temperature, and habitat-although spawning of both species also occurred at times of high concentrations of potential prey organisms for their larvae. Adults of all the above fish species appear to have evolved spawning strategies that are adapted to the average hydrological and biological conditions in the estuary that would lead to the enhanced survival of their larvae. With the exception of the black bream, it appears that a ubiquitous and prolonged rather than a synchronous and confined spawning strategy is more widely used by estuarine-spawning fishes in the Hopkins River estuary. This type of spawning strategy, combined with the generally high density of food available to fish larvae in estuaries, suggests that the match-mismatch hypothesis of Cushing may be less relevant in the estuarine than in the marine environment.

© CSIRO 1996

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