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Comparative persistence of marine fish larvae from pelagic versus demersal eggs off southwestern Nova Scotia, Canada

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Two groupings of larval fish were repeatedly identified by principal component analyses of larval densities from four broad-scale surveys during the spring and summer of 1985–1987 off southwestern Nova Scotia, Canada. Larvae originating from pelagic eggs (four species within Gadidae and Pleuronectidae) constituted one group, which were uniformly distributed over the sampling area with densities not correlated with bathymetry, although nearly all spawning occurs on the shallow western cap of Browns Bank, 100 km offshore. Larvae from demersal eggs (five species within Pholidae, Stichaeidae, Cottidae, Agonidae) constituted the second group, which dominated the shallow-water environments both inshore and on Browns Bank. Lower patchiness indices were evident amongst larvae from pelagic eggs in small and large sampling-gear collections (average 3.4 and 3.1, respectively) compared to fish hatching from demersal eggs (average 5.1 and 4.6). Fine-scale nearshore surveys over a 5 wk period in 1987 also showed that larvae of demersal eggs had a less variable distribution along an inshoreoffshore transect. Larvae from demersal eggs appear spatially persistent through the release of well-developed larvae from non-drifting eggs. These conclusions are consistent with other studies over a range of spatial scales in temperate and tropical environments, demonstrating that single-species models of larval dispersal are inadequate to account for the distributional patterns of larval fish in general.
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