|FitzGerald, J. L., S. R. Thorrold, K. M. Bailey, A. Brown, and K. P. Severin, Elemental signatures in otoliths of larval walleye pollock (Theragra calcogramma) from the northeast Pacific Ocean, Fish. Bull. U.S.102: 604-616, 2004|
The population structure of walleye pollock (Theragra chalcogramma) in the northeastern Pacific Ocean remains unknown. We examined elemental signatures in the otoliths of larval and juvenile pollock from locations in the Bering Sea and Gulf of Alaska to determine if there were significant geographic variations in otolith composition that may be used as natural tags of population affinities. Otoliths were assayed using both electron probe microanalysis (EPMA) and laser ablation inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (ICP-MS). Elements measured at the nucleus of otoliths by EPMA and laser ablation ICP-MS differed significantly among locations. However, geographic groupings identified by a multivariate statistical approach from EPMA and ICP-MS were dissimilar, suggesting that the elements assayed by each technique were controlled by separate depositional processes within the endolymph. Elemental profiles across the pollock otoliths were generally consistent at distances up to 100 mm from the nucleus. At distances beyond 100 mm, profiles varied significantly but were remarkably consistent among individuals collected at each location. These data suggest that larvae from various spawning locations are encountering water masses with differing physico-chemical properties through their larval lives, and at approximately the same time. Although our results are promising, we require a better understanding of the mechanisms controlling otolith chemistry before it will be possible to reconstruct dispersal pathways of larval pollock based on probe-based analyses of otolith geochemistry. Elemental signatures in otoliths of pollock may allow for the delineation of fine-scale population structure in pollock that has yet to be consistently revealed using population genetic approaches.