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fish otolith cross section

Ring around the ear bone

As a schoolmaster snapper grows, its ear bones, or otoliths, form sequential rings, much like a tree trunk, corresponding to different times in the fish’s life. Each ring in the otolith get imprinted with chemical isotopes from the waters where the fish had been living during that period of time—a fishy chemical address book. By anlayzing these chemical clues, MIT/WHOI graduate student Kelton McMahon seeks to identify which nurseries for juvenile coral reef fish should be protected.

(Illustration by Katherine Joyce, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution)


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