Habitat characteristics of bluntnose flyingfish Prognichthys occidentalis (Actinopterygii, Exocoetidae), across mesoscale features in the Gulf of Mexico
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2014, Springer International Publishing Switzerland. The aim of the present study is to investigate the influence of oceanic features on the distribution and abundance of bluntnose flyingfish (Prognichthys occidentalis) larvae in the northern Gulf of Mexico (NGoM). Summer ichthyoplankton cruises were conducted from 2009 to 2011 using a neuston net towed through the upper meter of the water column. Interannual variation was detected with densities of bluntnose flyingfish larvae higher in 2009 and 2010 than 2011. Bluntnose flyingfish larvae were present in each month and year sampled, suggesting that this species is a common and important component of the ichthyoplankton assemblage in this region. Generalized additive models were used to evaluate the effect of oceanographic conditions on the abundance of bluntnose flyingfish, and several environmental variables (sea surface height anomaly, distance to Loop Current, and salinity) were found to be influential in explaining patterns of abundance. Habitat suitability was linked to physicochemical properties of the seawater, and higher larval abundances were found at higher salinities and negative sea surface heights. This study emphasizes the importance of NGoM as a spawning/nursery area of bluntnose flyingfish and suggests that oceanographic conditions play an important role in determining the distribution and abundance of bluntnose flyingfish.