African Journal of Marine Science

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Fifty-five-year longevity for the largest member of the family Sparidae: The endemic red steenbras Petrus rupestris from South Africa

A.H. Andrews, M.J. Smale, P.D. Cowley, N. Chang


A previous study that explored the age and growth of red steenbras Petrus rupestris (Valenciennes, 1830), a large sparid (family Sparidae, seabreams or porgies) endemic to South Africa and reported to approach 2 m in length, provided estimates as a moderately slow-growing species with a maximum age near 30 years. The stock is considered collapsed and a fishing moratorium was imposed in 2012, resulting in this species being assessed as Endangered by the IUCN. One consideration in addressing population status is validation of life-history traits. In this study, estimates of age for red steenbras from thin-sectioned otoliths were reassessed visually in terms of both the original ages and revised estimates using a different age-reading pattern. The revised ages exceeded the original ages by up to 30 years, with a maximum estimated age of 55 years from a well-defined otolith section that provided a basis for the revised age-reading procedure. Bomb radiocarbon (14C) dating revealed there was an offset in the timing of the 14C rise on the Agulhas Bank that, when coupled with considerations for regional oceanography, provided support for the revised age-reading pattern and an estimated longevity that exceeds 50 years. These findings were further supported by the fortuitous recapture of a tagged red steenbras that was at liberty for 22 years.

Keywords: age validation, bomb radiocarbon dating, carbon-14, copper steenbras, endangered species, fishery closure, otoliths

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