Distribution, growth, and mortality of sailfish (Istiophorus platypterus) larvae in the northern Gulf of Mexico Academic Article uri icon


  • Ichthyoplankton surveys were conducted in shelf and slope waters of the northern Gulf of Mexico during the months of May-September in 2005 and 2006 to investigate the potential role of this region as spawning and nursery habitat of sailfish (Istiophorus platypterus). During the two-year study, 2426 sailfish larvae were collected, ranging in size from 2.0 to 24.3 mm standard length. Mean density for all neuston net collections (n=288) combined was 1.5 sailfish per 1000 m2, and maximum density was observed within frontal features created by hydrodynamic convergence (2.3 sailfish per 1000 m2). Sagittalotoliths were extracted from 1330 larvae, and otolith microstructure analysis indicated that the sailfish ranged in age from 4 to 24 days after hatching (mean=10.5 d, standard de-viation [SD]=3.2 d). Instantaneous growth coefficients (g) among survey periods (n=5) ranged from 0.113 to 0.127, and growth peaked during July 2005 collections when density within frontal features was highest. Daily instantaneous mortality rates (Z) ranged from 0.228 to 0.381, and Z was indexed to instantaneous weight-specific growth (G) to assess stage-specific production potential of larval cohorts. Ratios of G to Z were greater than 1.0 for all but one cohort examined, indicating that cohorts were gaining biomass during the majority of months investigated. Stage-specific production potential, in combination with catch rates and densities of larvae, indicates that the Gulf of Mexico likely represents important spawning and nursery habitat for sailfish.

published proceedings


author list (cited authors)

  • Simms, J. R., Rooker, J. R., Holt, S. A., Holt, G. J., & Bangma, J.

complete list of authors

  • Simms, Jeffrey R||Rooker, Jay R||Holt, Scott A||Holt, G Joan||Bangma, Jessica

publication date

  • January 2010