Regional Patterns in the Otolith Chemistry of Juvenile Spotted Seatrout (Cynoscion nebulosus) Differ under Contrasting Hydrological Regimes

Chet F. Rakocinski1, *, Bruce H. Comyns1, Mark S. Peterson1, Alan M. Shiller2
1 Department of Coastal Sciences, The University of Southern Mississippi, 703 East Beach Drive, Ocean Springs, MS 39564, USA;
2 Department of Marine Science, The University of Southern Mississippi, 1020 Balch Boulevard, Stennis Space Center, MS 39529, USA

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© 2015 Rakocinski et al.

open-access license: This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International Public License (CC-BY 4.0), a copy of which is available at: This license permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

* Address correspondence to this author at the Department of Coastal Sciences, The University of Southern Mississippi, 703 East Beach Drive, Ocean Springs, Mississippi 39564, USA; Tel: +1 228-872-4284; Fax: +1 228-872-4204; E-mail:


The value of using otolith chemistry to characterize recruitment in terms of natal source regions depends on how consistently spatio-temporal variation can be resolved. The objective of this study was to compare regional classification patterns in the otolith chemistry of juvenile Spotted Seatrout (Cynoscion nebulosus) between two years experiencing disparate hydrological regimes, and separated by a five year interlude. Spatial patterns in the whole-otolith chemistry of juveniles of this estuarine-dependent species were compared between years using five otolith elements and two stable isotopes. Consistent size-related trends in uptake and deposition were evidenced by parallel ontogenetic relationships for six otolith variables. Nine natal regions were discerned equally well in both years; and region accounted for similar overall amounts of variation in the seven otolith variables in both years. However, the otolith variables did not distinguish the nine regions in the same manner in both years, and natal regions varied in how similar they were in otolith chemistry between years. Consequently, between-year cross-classification accuracy varied widely among regions, and geographic distance per se was unimportant for explaining regional patterns in otolith chemistry. Salinity correlated significantly with regional patterns in otolith chemistry in 2001, but not at all in 2006 when conditions were much drier. Regional patterns in individual otolith variables reflected either a general trend based on hydrology, a regional-local effect whereby geographically closer regions exhibited similar otolith chemistry, or a location-specific effect for which there was either no correlation in otolith concentration among regions between years, or a significant but individualistic relationship. In addition to elucidating limitations of using otolith chemistry to identify natal source regions or for tracking fish movements, knowing more about how and why otolith chemistry varies could be used to address specific questions about early recruitment dynamics, or to aid in the development of more reliable instruments for discerning natal source contributions.

Keywords: Gulf of Mexico, Otolith Chemistry, Spatial Variation, Spotted Seatrout.