Habitat associations of dolphinfish larvae in the Gulf of Mexico
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2014 John Wiley & Sons Ltd. The aim of this study was to investigate the role of the northern Gulf of Mexico (Gulf) as essential habitat of common dolphinfish (Coryphaena hippurus) and pompano dolphinfish (C. equiselis) during early life and to characterize conditions in which they were found. Eight ichthyoplankton surveys were conducted during the summer months from 2007 to 2010 in northern Gulf waters off Texas and Louisiana (26-28N, 87-93W), during which 1145 dolphinfish larvae were collected. C. hippurus, the dominant dolphinfish species, were collected in 57% of sampling sites with an overall mean density of 0.73 larvae 1000 m-3, whereas C. equiselis were only collected at 18% of sites with a mean density of 0.12 larvae 1000 m-3. Generalized additive models (GAMs) were used to examine the relationship between several environmental parameters and C. hippurus presence/absence and density. Both presence/absence and density GAMs indicated that catches of C. hippurus larvae increased near fronts and eddies and that increased abundances were most strongly associated with higher salinities and cooler temperatures. In addition, our models showed that C. hippurus larvae were positively associated with C. equiselis larvae, suggesting that C. hippurus and C. equiselis use similar habitats. Results of this study indicate that the Gulf may represent important spawning and/or nursery habitat of dolphinfishes and that mesoscale features and physicochemical conditions influence the distribution and abundance of C. hippurus larvae in this region.