Two species of marine catfishes (Ariopsis felis and Bagre marinus) are abundant within the Apalachicola Bay system during most of the year. They function as 2nd and 3rd order consumers and as prey for top predators. Males perform oral incubation, a trait of most ariid catfish species, and thus unique considerations may be required for conservation efforts. Current information on the abundance, movements, population structure and life histories of ariid catfish is lacking for the northern Gulf of Mexico. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to determine trends in catfish abundance and spatial distributions, as well as determine how abiotic factors influence these patterns. Fifteen years of monthly fishery independent survey data collected by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission were used to examine relative catch per unit effort (CPUE) and create spatially explicit kernel density estimates to observe spatial distributions. Boosted regression tree models were used to examine the influence of abiotic factors upon catfish abundance and movement. Adults were most abundant prior to and during the spawning season in May through August and juvenile abundance was highest 9–12 weeks after spawning activity. An annual temperature-driven migration event was documented. Spatial distributions of adults showed partitioning for spawning purposes and juveniles exhibited overlapping distributions. Boosted regression tree models revealed that all analyzed predictor variables were important to the presence and distribution of A. felis and B. marinus. Salinity, water temperature, depth and clarity were found to be most important while pH and dissolved oxygen were less important. These results differ from observations of ariid catfish in tropical ecosystems in which spawning areas are more segregated, migration events occur biannually and are salinity driven.
|Advisor:||Fuentes, Mariana M. P. B., Cotton, Charles F.|
|Commitee:||Grubbs, R. Dean, Spencer, Robert G.|
|School:||The Florida State University|
|School Location:||United States -- Florida|
|Source:||MAI 82/1(E), Masters Abstracts International|
|Subjects:||Ecology, Biology, Conservation biology|
|Keywords:||Ariopsis, Bagre, Boosted regression tree, Environmental interactions, Fish movement, Kernel density|
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