Do otolith increments allow correct inferences about age and growth of coral reef fishes?

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Journal Article
Coral Reefs, 2014, 33 (1), pp. 255 - 258
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Otolith increment structure is widely used to estimate age and growth of marine fishes. Here, I test the accuracy of the long-term otolith increment analysis of the lemon damselfish Pomacentrus moluccensis to describe age and growth characteristics. I compare the number of putative annual otolith increments (as a proxy for actual age) and widths of these increments (as proxies for somatic growth) with actual tagged fish-length data, based on a 6-year dataset, the longest time course for a coral reef fish. Estimated age from otoliths corresponded closely with actual age in all cases, confirming annual increment formation. However, otolith increment widths were poor proxies for actual growth in length [linear regression r 2 = 0.44-0.90, n = 6 fish] and were clearly of limited value in estimating annual growth. Up to 60 % of the annual growth variation was missed using otolith increments, suggesting the long-term back calculations of otolith growth characteristics of reef fish populations should be interpreted with caution. © 2013 Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg.
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