African Journal of Marine Science

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Density-dependent changes in reproductive parameters and condition of southern Benguela sardine Sardinops sagax

CD van der Lingen, P Fréon, TP Fairweather, JJ van der Westhuizen


The sardine Sardinops sagax population in the southern Benguela has undergone substantial fluctuations in size over the past 50 years, collapsing from an apparently large population in the 1950s to low levels in the mid-1960s, remaining low for the next two decades, and recovering from the late 1980s to a population size that is now similar to or larger than that which occurred during the 1950s. Marked changes in condition and reproductive parameters of sardine have also occurred during this period; condition and standardised gonad mass are higher and length-at-maturity is lower at low population size compared with high population size. The correspondence between the temporal patterns in condition, reproductive parameters and population size are strongly suggestive of density-dependence, and indicate a compensatory response arising from reduced intraspecific competition. This is likely to have resulted from greater per capita food intake, improved body condition and hence faster growth, thus enabling fish to achieve maturation at a presumably younger age and smaller size. Biological parameters did not vary in or out of phase with time-series of sea surface temperature in the southern Benguela, weakening the hypothesis of environmentally mediated changes in these parameters and hence providing support for the hypothesis of a direct density-dependent response by sardine.

Keywords: condition, density dependence, sardine, Sardinops sagax, sexual maturity, southern Benguela

African Journal of Marine Science 2006, 28(3&4): 625–636
AJOL African Journals Online