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Age of Tarpon (Megalops atlanticus) Leptocephali Recruiting to Salt Marsh Pools in a South Carolina Estuary

Matthew E. Kimball1,*, Marvin M. Mace III1, Danielle L. Juzwick2, Austen Zugelter2, and Jonathan M. Shenker2

1Baruch Marine Field Laboratory, University of South Carolina, 2306 Crabhall Road, Georgetown, SC 29440. 2Department of Ocean Engineering and Marine Sciences, Florida Institute of Technology, 150 West University Boulevard, Melbourne, FL 32904. *Corresponding author.

Southeastern Naturalist,Volume 20, Issue 2 (2021): 264–272

To increase our knowledge of the early life history of Megalops atlanticus (Tarpon) along the United States Atlantic coast north of Florida, we estimated the age and hatch dates of Tarpon larvae (i.e., leptocephali) recruiting to salt marsh pools in the North Inlet estuary, SC. We collected leptocephali (n = 36) from marsh pools during June through October 2016 and kept a subset (n = 24) of these individuals for aging. We were able to estimate ages for 18 individuals by counting presumed daily rings on their otoliths. We estimated hatch date by subtracting estimated age from the capture date. Mean age was 25 days post hatch (dph) and varied from 17 to 30 dph. Hatch dates spanned from 25 July to 9 September 2016. These are the first age and hatch date estimates for Tarpon leptocephali from estuaries north of Florida and provide insight into the biology and possible spawning behavior of Tarpon in this area of the US Atlantic coast.

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