Marine Biology

, Volume 158, Issue 1, pp 21–30 | Cite as

Changes in the timing of otolith zone formation in North Sea cod from otolith records: an early indicator of climate-induced temperature stress?

  • R. S. Millner
  • G. M. PillingEmail author
  • S. R. McCully
  • H. Høie
Original Paper


We examine the seasonal variation in otolith increment formation in southern North Sea cod as a means of monitoring how changes in sea temperature over the past 20 years have affected cod in the wild. Seasonal opaque zone formation was related to winter and early spring. Timing of opaque zone formation was not influenced by either temperature or fish length, but increasing age led to slightly earlier but slower opaque zone formation. In contrast, there was a clear shift in the timing of translucent zone formation with temperature. In warm years, translucent growth occurs up to 22 days earlier than in colder periods. Increasing age and smaller size-at-age resulted in an earlier transition from opaque to translucent edge formation. Translucent zone formation appears indicative of increasing metabolic stress, and the earlier onset provides direct evidence of the impact of increasing sea temperatures on wild North Sea cod stocks.


Zone Formation Fish Growth Edge Type Otolith Growth Opaque Zone 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



We thank three anonymous reviewers for highly insightful comments on an earlier draft of the manuscript. We thank Mick Easey and Holly Drake for their contributions to the work on otolith edge identification. The study was funded by the UK’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs under contact MF0433. ICOADS marine temperature data were provided by the NOAA/OAR/ESRL PSD, Boulder, Colorado, USA, from their Web site at


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Copyright information

© Crown copyright 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • R. S. Millner
    • 1
  • G. M. Pilling
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • S. R. McCully
    • 1
  • H. Høie
    • 3
    • 4
    • 5
  1. 1.Lowestoft LaboratoryCentre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (Cefas)LowestoftUK
  2. 2.Secretariat of the Pacific CommunityNoumea CedexNew Caledonia
  3. 3.Institute of Marine ResearchNordnes, BergenNorway
  4. 4.Department of BiologyUniversity of BergenBergenNorway
  5. 5.EWOS ASBergenNorway

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