Trace element signatures in otoliths record natal river of juvenile American shad (Alosa sapidissima

Thorrold, Simon R., Cynthia M. Jones, Steven E. Campana, James W. McLaren, and Joseph W. H. Lam

Limnol. Oceangr. 43(8), 1998, 1826-1835 | DOI: 10.4319/lo.1998.43.8.1826

ABSTRACT: The elemental composition of fish otoliths may represent a permanent record of the environmental conditions an individual has experienced as trace elements, incorporated into the growing surface of the otolith, reflect the physical and chemical characteristics of the ambient water. We tested the utility of trace element signatures in otoliths as natural tags of the river of origin of juvenile American shad (Alosa sapidissima) collected from the Connecticut, Hudson and Delaware Rivers in August and October 1994. Four elements (K, Mn, Sr, and Ba) showed significant variability among sites within rivers in August, although only Mg showed a significant site effect by October. Four elements (Mg, Mn, Sr, and Ba) differed significantly among rivers in both months. Linear discriminant functions based on the trace element signatures classified fish to their natal river with -90% accuracy in both August and October collections. The discriminant function generated from the August data was able to classify fish collected in October successfully with better than 80% accuracy. On the basis of our findings, the river of origin of adult fish could be accurately determined by quantifying the trace element composition of the juvenile portion of their otoliths.

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