Identifications, distributions, and life history of four species of Seriola (Carangiformes: Carangidae) in the western North Atlantic based on contemporary and historical data

John K. Galbraith, Katherine E. Bemis, William E. Bemis, Heath S. Cook, and Mark J. Wuenschel

Accurate identification of species is essential to understand their biology and management. Some species of fishes, such as amberjacks (genus Seriola) are difficult to iden­tify in the field, including the four spe­cies that occur in the western North Atlantic: greater amberjack (Seriola dumerili (Risso, 1810)), lesser amber­jack (Seriola fasciata (Bloch, 1793)), almaco jack (Seriola rivoliana Valen­ciennes, 1833), and banded rudderfish (Seriola zonata (Mitchill, 1815)). All four species are caught by standardized Spring and Fall bottom trawl surveys (BTS) from Cape Hatteras to the Gulf of Maine conducted by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administra­tion’s Northeast Fisheries Science Cen­ter; historical records of captures since 1963 are maintained in a database. At sea, captured fishes are assigned to taxa; specimens that are difficult to assign are retained for further study in the labo­ratory at Woods Hole, Massachusetts. In the laboratory, we identified 105 specimens of the four species of Seriola collected by the BTS from 2006-2019 using morphological characters and Cytochrome Oxidase subunit I genetic barcodes to understand rates of at-sea misassignments. We found that at-sea assignments were ≥91% correct for S. fasciata, S. rivoliana, and S. zonata, but only 24% correct for S. dumerili. We then applied our analysis of at-sea assignments to evaluate 1218 historical records of Seriola caught by the BTS from 1963–2006. We conclude that re­cords in the database are likely valid for catches assigned at sea to S. fasciata, S. rivoliana, and S. zonata but not reli­able for S. dumerili. To facilitate future at-sea assignments of the four species of Seriola, we summarize useful field characters and incorporate these into a new identification guide for banded juveniles and adult-coloration individu­als. We also provide new data on diets, reproductive condition, spawning peri­ods, sizes (including a new maximum size for S. fasciata), historical literature, and seasonal and geographic distribu­tions for the four species of Seriola in the western North Atlantic.

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