Lemon sole Microstomus kitt in the northern North Sea: a multidisciplinary approach to the early life-history dynamics
Journal article, Peer reviewed
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Original versionJournal of Fish Biology. 2021, 99 (2), 569-580. 10.1111/jfb.14745
Lemon sole Microstomus kitt is a commercially valuable flatfish species that occurs in shelf waters around the northeast Atlantic. Only the most basic life-history information is available for the North Sea. Spawning is generally assumed to occur between early May and October, with a peak between May and August. Lemon sole larvae have been found in the water column in the northern North Sea in winter during standard surveys. Larvae captured in November/December 2016 and January/February 2017 using the International Council for the Exploration of the Seas standard 2 m Midwater Ring trawls (MIK) were analysed to gain a better understanding of the pelagic early life-history stages of lemon sole, especially in relation to the timing of spawning and the dispersal of overwintering larvae. Larval age was estimated from sagittal otolith primary increment counts. The larvae caught in November/December ranged in nominal age from 4 to 45 days post-hatching which suggests that spawning continues into late October and November. Most, but not all, of the larvae caught in January/February were post metamorphosis, and the difference in age between the two sampling dates was consistent with the elapsed time between samplings. The estimated hatching dates confirm that lemon sole spawning extends into late autumn in the northern North Sea, with overwintering larvae in all developmental stages. Drift modelling of eggs and larvae released at historically documented spawning grounds in the northern North Sea suggests that these grounds are also the source for all of the larvae sampled during the 2016–2017 surveys.