Inferred growth of juvenile French grunts, Haemulon flavolineatum, and schoolmaster, Lutjanus apodus, in mangrove and seagrass habitats

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Growth, survival, and abundance of young, and their connectivity to adult populations are four primary factors used to define nursery habitats. In the present study, we examined the relative quality of mangrove and seagrass habitats for juvenile French grunt, Haemulon flavolineatum (Desmarest, 1823), and schoolmaster, Lutjanus apodus (Walbaum, 1792), reef fish populations in St. Croix and Puerto Rico by using otolith microstructure to compare growth in these habitats. Mean daily otolith increment widths during the post-settlement period (30-60 d) of surviving late juvenile French grunts and schoolmaster collected in 2007 were compared between mangrove and seagrass habitats within each island. Increments widths were significantly wider during the post-settlement period in mangrove habitats at both study locations for both species. Our inferred growth interpretations indicate that mangroves may support faster growing fishes than seagrass habitats. However, due to the fact that the observed growth rates reflect the traits of the surviving cohorts among habitats, other factors, such as size-selective mortality/emigration and previous larval growth history, should also be considered in the interpretation of the observed growth patterns. © 2011 Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science of the University of Miami.

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Bulletin of Marine Science