Thesis Defense by Stephen Pang-April 12th

The effect of sex ratio on the reproductive biology of two sex changing fish (Lythrypnus dalli and Rhinogobiops nicholsii)

A Thesis Defense by Stephen Pang

The Ichthyology Lab

Friday, April 12th, 2019 at 12 pm

MLML Seminar Room

Stephen Pang is a master's student under Dr. Scott Hamilton in the Ichthyology Lab. He graduated from the University of Washington in 2012 with a B.S. in biological oceanography. Prior to starting at Moss Landing Marine Labs, Stephen worked in Idaho and central Washington doing salmonid research. He recently completed the Sea Grant State Fellowship (where he was placed with the Delta Stewardship Council in Sacramento) and has recently joined an environmental consulting firm where he continues his work with salmonids and conservation.

Thesis Abstract:

By targeting the largest individuals in a population, size-selective fisheries can influence the life history traits and population parameters of exploited fish stocks. For protogynous (female-to-male) hermaphrodites, this type of harvest is also sex-selective since it preferentially removes males from the population. These differences in sex-specific survival can lead to populations that are heavily female-biased. While males historically have not been considered a limiting factor when assessing the health of gonochoristic populations, modeling work suggests that reduced male abundance and skewed sex ratios could cause a concomitant decline in the reproductive output of protogynous hermaphrodite populations. This study used two nest-brooding sex-changers, Lythrypnus dalli and Rhinogobiops nicholsii, to examine the effect of operational sex ratio on reproductive and nesting success, growth, and rates of sex change. Fish were outplanted on artificial patch reefs at varying sex ratios and their reproductive output was monitored by photographing eggs laid in artificial nests. Sex ratios ranged from 1:1 to 1:19 male:female. Fish were tagged so that growth and sex change could be determined upon recollection from the artificial reefs. For both L. dalli and R. nicholsii, total egg production, female per capita production, average production per nest, and the number of nests per reef were not affected by sex ratio. By contrast, male per capita production and the percentage of nesting males significantly increased as sex ratios became more female-biased. For R. nicholsii, growth rates were highest for individuals that completed sex change during the experimental period. During the breeding season, the frequency of sex change for R. nicholsii was highest on reefs that were strongly female-biased; there was no effect of sex ratio on the frequency of sex change during the non-breeding season. In L. dalli and R. nicholsii, it appears that males do not limit the reproductive output of heavily female-biased populations—as had been predicted by previous modeling work. Instead, for species that defend demersal nests, intrasexual competition between males (i.e., territory and mate monopolization) or females (i.e. competition for nest space) may limit total production when operational sex ratios are more balanced or more female-biased, respectively. As sex ratios became skewed in favor of females, male-male competition was relaxed and individual males became more reproductively successful; the discrepancy in per capita production between males and females at skewed sex ratios indicates that some females would increase their reproductive success by undergoing sex reversal (as demonstrated by R. nicholsii during the breeding season). It is possible that many of the results on reproductive success from this study are specific to nest-brooding species; this highlights the importance of mating systems and reproductive behavior when considering the impact of fisheries on the population dynamics of exploited populations.

Thesis Defense by Laurel Lam – December 4th, 2018

Geographic and habitat-based variation in Lingcod (Ophiodon elongatus) demography and life history along the U.S. West Coast

A Thesis Defense by Laurel Lam

Ichthyology Lab

Tuesday, December 4th, 2018 at 12pm

MLML Seminar Room

Laurel is a Master's student under Dr. Scott Hamilton in the Ichthyology Lab. She graduated from UC Santa Barbara with a B.S. in Aquatic Biology and spent several years working for the CA Department of Fish and Wildlife and the Aquarium of the Bay in San Francisco before starting her master's at MLML. Laurel came into the master's program with an interest in fish population biology and working with local fishing communities, so studying Lingcod life-history along the U.S West Coast seemed like the perfect thesis project for her. Throughout her master's career, Laurel has worked closely with state and federal fisheries agencies and has volunteered on several annual research cruises conducted by the NOAA Northwest Fisheries Science Center. In addition, she assisted with conducting entrainment and impingement surveys at the Moss Landing Power Plant with Tenera Environmental and currently works with the Marine Pollution Studies Lab as part of the Bioaccumulation Oversight Group, which investigates harmful levels of organic and man-made contaminates in recreationally caught sportfish in California.

Thesis Abstract:

Fish populations are known to exhibit spatial variability in life history demography due to factors such as temperature, productivity, habitat, and fishing pressure. However, most stock assessment methods neglect to account for these differences and assume that life history traits are constant and unchanging across space and time. As a result, stocks are managed across broad geographic areas with catch quotas, size limits and other regulations applying equally in all places, running the risk of over- or under-harvesting on a regional scale. In this study, Lingcod (Ophiodon elongatus) were collected throughout their U.S. range from 7 geographically distinct areas (Alaska to Southern California) and two habitat types (high-relief versus low-relief) in collaboration with volunteer anglers, recreational party boats, and the federal West Coast Groundfish Bottom Trawl Survey. I evaluated and compared regional and habitat-based differences in Lingcod size and age structure, growth parameters, timing at 50% maturity, total mortality rates and condition indices. Size structure, growth, and maturity rates were found to exhibit a latitudinal cline, where Lingcod in northern waters grew faster and larger, matured at larger sizes than Lingcod in southern waters. There was no latitudinal trend in total mortality, however, Lingcod from Southern California and Washington had the highest total mortality rates compared to all other regions. Between habitats, Lingcod from rocky high-relief habitats grew faster and larger, matured at smaller sizes, and had higher total mortality than fish from trawlable, low-relief habitats. Condition differences were not significant between habitats and did not follow a latitudinal trend, however Lingcod in the Southern California region were in the best condition. Overall, these findings demonstrate significant latitudinal and habitat-based variability in life history and demography of the West Coast Lingcod stock. Differences in growth, maturity, and condition appear to be strongly linked to coastwide patterns seen in sea surface temperature and productivity, while differences in total mortality and demography seem to be influenced by historic and current fishing pressure.