Inferred transport of early life stages of Patagonian grenadier (Macruronus magellanicus) between northern Patagonian channels and the continental shelf

Resumen: Patagonian grenadier migrates from the southwest Atlantic and southeast Pacific to reproduce in the northern Chilean Patagonia. Spawning occurs mainly in winter at the continental shelf break (CSB), but eggs and larvae are also collected inshore of the Chilean Patagonian Estuarine System (PES) during winter and spring. In order to evaluate whether the ontogenetic changes in distribution of early life stages was part of the reproductive strategy of Patagonian grenadier, we analyzed the distribution and transport of eggs and larvae in spring and winter in three channels of the PES (Ninualac, Darwin and Pulluche channels). Ichthyoplankton stratified sampling showed the highest abundances of eggs in the deepest strata, whereas larvae were heterogeneously distributed along the entire water column. Residual current velocities obtained from ADCP indicated seaward (westward) fluxes at the surface in all channels, except in Pulluche in winter. At depth (50–100 m) fluxes were eastward (inshore) in the northern 2 channels but seaward in the southernmost channel. These differences in residual velocities, with variations in the distribution of eggs and larvae, resulted in different landward and oceanward flows of eggs and larvae among channels and strata. Estimated net fluxes in winter suggested that eggs within the channels would either enter the PES from the continental shelf, mainly at the subsurface layer of the Darwin channel, or come from a secondary spawning within this same channel. Eggs and small larvae would be retained at the inshore zone of the Darwin channel, and the more advanced developed stages would be exported through the Pulluche channel back to the continental shelf. The inshore high abundance of eggs and larvae of M. magellanicus in winter, along with the reduced primary production and microbial-based plankton community previously reported, suggest that entering the channels in winter is not a major part of the reproductive strategy of the species. The exportation of larvae from the channels to the shelf in winter, instead, might promote better feeding conditions in offshore waters where larger zooplankton occurs. 

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