Reproductive biology of hardhead catfish Ariopsis felis: evidence for overwintering oocytes

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Hardhead catfish Ariopsis felis are a common marine catfish in the coastal waters of the Gulf of Mexico (GOM). The low economic value of this species has depressed interest and research, and although the species is known for its extremely low fecundity and large oocytes, little else is known about this catfish species. A total of 1230 samples across all months of the year from 2016 to 2018 resulted in 681 females, and analysis of gonado-somatic index (I ) revealed 1% to be a clear cut-off indicating maturity. Females are considered capable of spawning from April to June when I averaged 4-8%. Both atresia and post-ovulatory follicles were present in July, suggesting that spawning ends in July in the northern GOM. The 1% I cut-off was used to designate maturity, and from that an L of 253 mm was estimated. Batch fecundity from 41 females estimated a mean batch size of 36 oocytes. Perhaps the most interesting finding was the presence of secondary growth stage oocytes (e.g., cortical alveoli) from July through November, well outside the spawning capable period. Furthermore, 78% of females had some early vitellogenic oocytes present during the non-spawning season, and the distribution of these relatively large (2-5 mm) oocytes did not change over time. The results here are not only important as reproductive biology information for a common and abundant species, but also present interesting and unusual patterns of non-spawning season oocyte development that is not commonly seen in Western Hemisphere subtropical fish species.

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Journal of fish biology

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