Development of kelp rockfish Sebastes atrovirens (Jordan and Gilbert 1880), and brown rockfish, S. auriculatus (Girard 1854), from birth to pelagic juvenile stage, with notes on early larval development of black-and-yellow rockfish, S. chrysomelas...

William Watson and Larry L. Robertson

Larval kelp (Sebastes atrovirens), brown (S. auriculatus), and black-and-yellow (S. chrysomelas) rockfish were reared from known adults, to preflexion stage, nine days after birth for S. chrysomelas, to late postflexion stage for S. atrovirens, and to pelagic juvenile stage for S. auriculatus. Larval S. atrovirens and S. chrysomelas were about 4.6 mm body length (BL) and S. auriculatus about 5.2 mm BL at birth. Both S. atrovirens and S. auriculatus underwent notochord flexion at about 6–9 mm BL. Sebastes atrovirens transform to the pelagic juvenile stage at about 14–16 mm BL and S. auriculatus transformed at ca. 25 mm BL. Early larvae of all three species were characterized by melanistic pigment dorsally on the head, on the gut, on most of the ventral margin of the tail, and in a long series on the dorsal margin of the tail. Larval S. atrovirens and S. auriculatus developed a posterior bar on the tail during the flexion or postflexion stage. In S. atrovirens xanthic pigment resembled the melanistic pattern throughout larval development. Larval S. auriculatus lacked xanthophores except on the head until late preflexion stage, when a pattern much like the melanophore pattern gradually developed. Larval S. chrysomelas had extensive xanthic pigmentation dorsally, but none ventrally, in preflexion stage. All members of the Sebastes subgenus Pteropodus (S. atrovirens, S. auriculatus, S. carnatus, S. caurinus, S. chrysomelas, S. dalli, S. maliger, S. nebulosus, S. rastrelliger) are morphologically similar and all share the basic melanistic pigment pattern described here. Although the three species reared in this study can be distinguished on the basis of xanthic pigmentation, it seems unlikely that it will be possible to reliably identify field-collected larvae to species using traditional morphological and melanistic pigmentation characters.

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