ALTERNATIVE MIGRATORY PATHWAYS OF JUVENILE STRIPED BASS IN THE PATUXENT RIVER ESTUARY, MARYLAND
Conroy, Christian William
Secor, David H.
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Although highly migratory striped bass <italic>Morone saxatilis</italic> utilize spatially diverse and dynamic estuarine systems as nurseries, early dispersal behaviors have remained largely unknown. Using otolith chemistry, we identified consistent migratory and residence behaviors in juvenile striped bass year classes. Migrants were further separated by size and age into contingents that shared similar ontogenetic dispersal thresholds. We identified a small group of larval dispersers that moved to mesohaline waters prior to reaching 6 mm. Resident juveniles experienced better early growth that migrants. Small migrants had the lowest growth rates prior to dispersal, but afterward showed enhanced growth rate. Positive growth inflections were also observed for a group of migrants that reinvaded freshwater at larger sizes. Striped bass migration seems to be controlled by individual growth trajectories, where movement is driven by poor growth in the natal habitat.