Validation of the use of vertebrae and dorsal-fin spines for age determination of spiny dogfish (Squalus acanthias) in the western North Atlantic Ocean

Kelsey C. James, Lisa J. Natanson, Christopher Flight, Cindy Tribuzio, John Hoey, and Camilla McCandless
Cover date
Published online 8 April 2021

Spiny dogfish (Squalus acanthias) are traditionally aged by counting band pairs on dorsal-fin spines; however, wear and tear of the spines make obtaining accurate age estimates of older spiny dogfish difficult. Vertebral centra are an alternate structure that can be used to estimate age, but success in their use has been varied. We conducted a tag-recapture study using oxytetracycline injections to validate annual deposition in both dorsal-fin spines and vertebral centra of spiny dogfish. When band pairs in vertebral centra were used, time at liberty was significantly underestimated. Additionally, band-pair counts were found to change along the vertebral column of an individual, further refuting the use of vertebral centra to generate age estimates. Band-pair deposition in dorsal-fin spines was confirmed to be annual in spiny dogfish at liberty for up to 2.6 years. Dorsal-fin spines should continue to be used to age spiny dogfish, and vertebral centra are not a viable alternative.