Life history of northern Gulf of Mexico Warsaw grouper Hyporthodus nigritus inferred from otolith radiocarbon analysis

TitleLife history of northern Gulf of Mexico Warsaw grouper Hyporthodus nigritus inferred from otolith radiocarbon analysis
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2020
AuthorsBarnett, BK, Chanton, JP, Ahrens, R, Thornton, L, Patterson, WF
Secondary AuthorsPatterson, HM
Date PublishedDec-01-2021

Warsaw grouper, Hyporthodus nigritus, is a western Atlantic Ocean species typically found at depths between 55 and 525 m. It is listed as a species of concern by the U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service and as near threatened by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. However, little information exists on the species’ life history in the northern Gulf of Mexico (nGOM) and its stock status in that region is currently unknown. Age of nGOM Warsaw grouper was investigated via opaque zone counts in otolith thin sections (max age = 61 y), and then the bomb 14C chronometer was employed to validate the accuracy of age estimates. Otolith cores (n = 14) were analyzed with accelerator mass spectrometry and resulting Δ14C values overlain on a loess regression computed for a regional coral and known-age red snapper Δ14C time series. Residual analysis between predicted Δ14C values from the loess regression versus Warsaw grouper otolith core Δ14C values indicated no significant difference in the two data series. Therefore, the accuracy of otolith-based aging was validated, which enabled growth and longevity estimates to be made for nGOM Warsaw grouper. Dissolved inorganic carbon (DIC) Δ14C values collected from the nGOM support the inference that juvenile Warsaw grouper occur in shelf waters (<200 m) since DIC Δ14C values in this depth range are enriched in 14C and similar to the Δ14C values from otolith cores. A Bayesian model was fit to fishery-dependent age composition data and produced von Bertalanffy growth function parameters of L1 = 1,533 mm, k = 0.14 y-1, and t0 = 1.82 y. Fishing mortality also was estimated in the model, which resulted in a ratio of fishing to natural mortality of 5.1:1. Overall, study results indicate Warsaw grouper is a long-lived species that is estimated to have experienced significant overfishing in the nGOM, with the age of most landed fish being <10 y.