Journal Article

Depensation, probability of fertilization, and the mating system of Atlantic cod (<i>Gadus morhua</i> L.)

Sherrylynn Rowe, Jeffrey A. Hutchings, Dorte Bekkevold and Ana Rakitin

in ICES Journal of Marine Science

Published on behalf of ICES/CIEM

Volume 61, issue 7, pages 1144-1150
Published in print January 2004 | ISSN: 1054-3139
Published online January 2004 | e-ISSN: 1095-9289 | DOI:
Depensation, probability of fertilization, and the mating system of Atlantic cod (Gadus morhua L.)

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  • Marine and Estuarine Biology


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Atlantic cod (Gadus morhua L.) have been severely overexploited and are currently at historic population lows, having declined 90% in the North Sea and 99% off northeast Newfoundland in recent decades. Slow rates of recovery and continuing declines may be attributable to depensation, defined as a reduction in per capita growth rate concomitant with reduced population size. Several potential causes of depensation relate to low mating success and consequent reduced production of offspring. We explore the empirical basis of one of these in Atlantic cod using egg fertilization and male abundance data obtained from 21 experimental populations generated by three independent research programmes. We find support for the hypotheses that (a) fertilization rate declines with abundance and (b) variance in fertilization rate increases as population size declines. The former identifies one potential mechanism underlying depensation in Atlantic cod. The latter has negative genetic consequences for effective population size (Ne), resulting in a decline in the ratio of Ne to census population size (Ne/Nc) with declining abundance. Our results may have general implications for the conservation biology of broadcast-spawning marine fish, particularly those with mating systems similar to that of Atlantic cod.

Keywords: Allee effect; Atlantic cod; conservation; depensation; fertilization; mate choice; mate competition; mating system

Journal Article.  4762 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Environmental Science ; Marine and Estuarine Biology

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