Environmental Biology of Fishes

, Volume 101, Issue 11, pp 1571–1587 | Cite as

Intrinsic and environmental drivers of growth in an Alaskan rockfish: an otolith biochronology approach

  • Mary Elizabeth MattaEmail author
  • Thomas E. Helser
  • Bryan A. Black


Otolith growth-increment chronologies provide an approach for evaluating the impacts of both high-frequency (e.g., interannual) and low-frequency (e.g., interdecadal) climate variability on fish growth. A growth-increment biochronology spanning six decades, spanning several warm and cold climate regime periods, was developed for a commercially important species of rockfish, Sebastes polyspinis, in the Gulf of Alaska. To confirm that all increments were correctly identified and placed in time, we borrowed the technique of crossdating from the tree-ring science of dendrochronology, which ensured high data quality. We then used a mixed effects model to partition variance in otolith growth-increment width among intrinsic (e.g., age-related) and extrinsic (e.g., climate-related) factors. This biochronology was contrasted with one recently developed for S. alutus, a closely-related species which exhibited a significant change in growth following the late 1970s North Pacific climate regime shift. Both species generally showed positive relationships between warm climate conditions and growth, though S. polyspinis experienced a relatively smaller step-increase in growth following the regime shift. The new S. polyspinis otolith biochronology represents a long-term record of growth that extends well before biological specimens were first collected in the Gulf of Alaska, providing a potential tool for fisheries managers to evaluate the effects of climate variability on growth and biological reference points.


Otoliths Age and growth North Pacific Sclerochronology Regime shift Climate change 



We thank Christopher Gburski for assisting with otolith preparation. The R scripts published in Morrongiello and Thresher (2015) were invaluable in the construction of our mixed effects models, and we thank the authors for making this information freely available. We thank Kim Rand, Chris Rooper, and two anonymous reviewers for providing constructive reviews that improved this manuscript. All applicable federal guidelines for the care and use of animals were followed. Reference to trade names does not imply endorsement by the National Marine Fisheries Service, NOAA. The findings and conclusions in the paper are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of the National Marine Fisheries Service, NOAA.

Supplementary material

10641_2018_801_MOESM1_ESM.docx (18 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 18 kb)


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Copyright information

© This is a U.S. Government work and not under copyright protection in the US; foreign copyright protection may apply 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Resource Ecology and Fisheries Management Division, Alaska Fisheries Science Center, National Marine Fisheries ServiceNational Oceanic and Atmospheric AdministrationSeattleUSA
  2. 2.Marine Science InstituteUniversity of Texas at AustinPort AransasUSA

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