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Characteristic ichthyoplankton taxa in the separation zone of the East Australian Current: Larval assemblages as tracers of coastal mixing

Characteristic ichthyoplankton taxa in the separation zone of the East Australian Current: Larval assemblages as tracers of coastal mixing,10.1016/j.d

Characteristic ichthyoplankton taxa in the separation zone of the East Australian Current: Larval assemblages as tracers of coastal mixing  
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Ichthyoplankton assemblages were compared between regions dominated by the oligotrophic East Australian Current (EAC) and the inner-shelf waters off southeastern Australia, to determine if the early life history of fish was related to the separation of the EAC from the coast, producing different water masses as well as characteristic taxa. Samples were collected at the surface and in sub-surface waters, at 50 and 100m isobath stations, during two summer research voyages in November 1998 and January 1999. On both voyages the study region was characterized by coastal and EAC waters in the north (∼31°S), and in the south by topographically induced upwelling (∼31°S), associated with narrowing of the continental shelf and separation of the EAC from the coast. Among the 111 families of larval fish, we observed distinctive assemblages of ichthyoplankton associated with the two different water masses. A greater abundance of the Carangidae, Labridae, Lutjanidae, Microcanthidae, Myctophidae and Scombridae was associated with the nutrient poor EAC water mass, while the Callionymidae, Clupeidae, Platycephalidae and Sillaginidae were mostly found in the cooler and/or fresher inner-shelf water mass. We assessed these patterns with opportunistic samples from an unusual, wind-driven upwelling event in the north (∼31°S) earlier in the November voyage. The relative abundance of these 10 characteristic families distinguished this wind-driven upwelling event from the subsequent relaxation and predominance of the EAC assemblage at this location just 6d later. Distinctive and abundant families such as larval clupeids, relative to larval carangids, could be a useful marker of inner-shelf, EAC and mixed water masses in the absence of robust hydrographic data. This and related studies indicate contrast in early life histories of Sardinops sagax and Trachurus spp., which appear to spawn respectively in the inner-shelf and outer-shelf waters. The post-flexion stages of S. sagax predominate in the outer-shelf and Tasman Front, while post-flexion Trachurus spp. predominate in inner-shelf water masses.
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