Growth and otolith morphology vary with alternative reproductive tactics and contaminant exposure in the round goby Neogobius melanostomus
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Round goby Neogobius melanostomus sagittal (saccular) otolith morphology was compared between males of the two alternative reproductive tactics (termed guarder and sneaker males) and between males captured from sites of high or low contamination. Otolith size increased with fish size and also displayed an ontogenetic shift in shape, becoming relatively taller as otoliths grew in size. Despite a considerable overlap in age between males adopting the two reproductive tactics, size-at-age measurements revealed that guarder males are significantly larger than sneakers at any given age and that they invest more into somatic growth than sneaker males. Controlling for body size, sneaker males possessed heavier sagittal otoliths than guarder males. Subtle otolith shape differences were also found between the two male tactics and between sites of high and low contaminant exposure. Sneaker males had relatively shorter otoliths with more pronounced notching than guarder males. Fish captured at sites of high contamination had otoliths showing slower growth rates in relation to body size and their shapes had more pronounced caudal points and ventral protrusions when compared with fish captured at sites of low contamination. The results are discussed in relation to life-history tradeoffs between the male tactics in terms of reproductive and somatic investment as well as the putative metabolic costs of exposure to contaminants. Overall, this study reveals that male alternative reproductive tactics and environmental contaminants can have small, yet measurable, effects on otolith morphology and these factors should be accounted for in future research when possible.
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