Advances in herring biology: from simple to complex, coping with plasticity and adaptability
Peer reviewed, Journal article
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At least two centuries of investigations on herring have been absorbed by scientific journals, and applied and fundamental research has produced groundbreaking concepts in fisheries, population biology, and marine ecology. By the 1970s, a firm understanding of herring biology formed the basis for more sophisticated research. At that point, herring populations had been delineated, and their migration patterns described. The reproduction and early stage biology were characterized in ways that could be applied to fisheries management. However, over the subsequent four decades, new approaches and technology overturned many of the earlier findings. Behavioural studies revealed a repertoire of patterns that extended the concept of schooling, and genetic analyses showed high levels of stock mixing. Application of otolith analysis to larval, juvenile and adult fish revealed the scope of plasticity in growth and life-history strategies. Developments in physiological research have revealed that herring are not “primitive”, as once believed, but highly adaptable in their nutrition and metabolism. These advances fundamentally changed our view of herring, and the resulting challenge is to synthesize current knowledge to help explain the significance of adaptability and plasticity in its flexible life history.