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Winter storm effects on the spawning and larval drift of a pelagic fish


Recruitment for many marine organisms depends on survival and transport of eggs and larvae from spawning grounds to nursery areas1. We investigated the effects of winter storms and the Gulf Stream on the spawning, development and drift of the Atlantic menhaden, Brevoortia tyrannus, which spawns offshore2 and metamorphoses in estuaries3. Spawning was maximal during storms in water upwelled near the western edge of the Gulf Stream. Eggs and larvae drifted shoreward with abundant food in the warm surface stratum of a density-driven circulation maintained by the large sea–air heat flux. We suggest that the Atlantic menhaden and other species have evolved to reproduce in winter near warm boundary currents, including the Gulf Stream and Kuroshio, as a result of physical conditions that permit the rapid development and shoreward drift of their eggs and larvae, with consequent high recruitment and fitness.

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Checkley, D., Raman, S., Maillet, G. et al. Winter storm effects on the spawning and larval drift of a pelagic fish. Nature 335, 346–348 (1988).

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