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CONTENTS
Preface
Acknowledgments
Key to Abbreviations
Taxa
Literature Cited

Northeast Fisheries Science Center Reference Document 06-21

A Laboratory Guide to the Identification of Marine Fish Eggs Collected on the Northeast Coast, 1977-1994

by Peter L. Berrien1 (retired) and John D. Sibunka2
1E-mail: plberrien@comcast.net; Address: P O Box 927, Dennis MA 02638
2E-mail: john.sibunka@noaa.gov; Address: National Marine Fisheries Service, 74 Magruder Rd, Sandy Hook NJ 07732

Web version posted September 26, 2006

Citation: Berrien PL, Sibunka JD. 2006. A laboratory guide to the identification of marine fish eggs collected on the northeast coast of the United States, 1977-1994. US Dep Commer, Northeast Fish Sci Cent Ref Doc 06-21; 162 p.

Information Quality Act Compliance: In accordance with section 515 of Public Law 106-554, the Northeast Fisheries Science Center completed both technical and policy reviews for this report. These predissemination reviews are on file at the NEFSC Editorial Office.

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PREFACE

This report presents observations pertaining to the identification of marine fish eggs collected in continental shelf and slope waters of the northeast United States, which extends from south of Cape Hatteras to western Nova Scotia. The information included here encompasses the time period from 1977 to 1994. Most of the fish eggs were collected during the 11-year (1977-1987) MARMAP (Marine Resource Monitoring Assessment and Prediction) program, and additional egg data were obtained from post-MARMAP survey cruises from 1988 to 1994. The intention of this report was to compile the information used for fish egg identification by the Northeast Fisheries Science Center (NEFSC) with three specific objectives: 1) to provide descriptive notes for various fish taxa on their egg development from fertilization to hatching, 2) to document spawning times for the taxa collected for the four regions of the Northeast U.S. continental shelf, and 3) to present data on seasonal and regional variation in egg shell and oil globule diameters for various taxa.

Descriptive notes regarding the egg development of several known taxa are not supplied in this guide (e.g. Brevoortia tyrannus, Scomber scombrus). Information for them is available in the scientific literature. In addition to the more common taxa for which the identifications of the eggs were known, there were many unidentified eggs, some of which share similar characteristics. For these unidentified eggs we recorded egg size, shape and sculpturing; the presence or absence of an oil globule(s); the size and number of the oil globule(s); embryonic development and pigmentation patterns; geographic area(s) where they were collected; and time of year collected. These eggs had similar identification characteristics through progressive developmental stages and were considered a taxon. Unidentified eggs were assigned an in-house reference number (e.g., Unknown #90) for cataloging purposes with the intention that they might eventually be identified. Both known and unknown egg taxa were also catalogued in the NEFSC electronic data base using a nine digit bionumeric code for fishes (Bullis et al. 1972). This bionumeric code for all the unknown type eggs catalogued in the NEFSC database begins with 100 000 -- for the first six digits, and the last two or three digits are assigned the unique taxon reference number. If the unidentified taxon reference number contains only two digits then it will be preceded with a zero (e.g., Unknown #90 = 100 000 090). The bionumeric codes are given with the corresponding taxa discussed in this report.

Fish eggs were staged according to their development end points. The three principal egg stages commonly referred to in this guide are:

  1. Early: represents the period from just spawned to the point of blastopore closure.
  2. Middle: represents the period from blastopore closure to tail bud almost free.
  3. Late: represents the period from tail bud free (i.e., slightly undercut) to just before hatching.

In the taxon discussions these three stages may be further subdivided for discussion. For example, a discussion of a middle stage may be further refined to: early-middle, middle-middle or late-middle. A late stage may also refer to the amount of embryonic encirclement around the yolk (e.g., ½~, which means that the embryo, from snout to tailtip, encircles half of the yolk circumference).

Ichthyoplankton samples collected at sea were initially hardened and preserved in a 5% formalin solution. The sorted fish eggs were archived in 3-4% formalin and are stored at the NEFSC Narragansett (RI) Laboratory. The identification of fish eggs and their measurements was done using binocular microscopes fitted with calibrated ocular micrometers. Measurements for egg chorion and oil globule diameters were made to the nearest 0.01 millimeter. Sizes within parentheses represent minimum and maximum values observed. The heading dates listed indicate the most current addition or revision to the taxa/taxon presented.

This guide is not comprehensive; there are a number of unknown egg types and relatively little information for early and middle stage eggs. It is the authors’ goal for this document to serve as a benchmark presenting the information on egg identification developed to date. By making this guide available, the authors hope to assist other researchers in the study of marine fish eggs and the application of early life stages to fisheries management questions (e.g., defining Essential Fish Habitat).

Acknowledgments

The authors express their gratitude to Donna L. Johnson for her advice and technical assistance in helping to make this publication possible. We thank Robert N. Reid and Dr. Jonathan A. Hare, whose valuable comments improved this paper.

Key to Abbreviations

Note: All months of the year are limited to the first three letters.

ant

=

anterior

approx

=

approximately

BL

=

body length

c

=

central (used as part of geographical location under the heading “Area”)

dbl

=

double

dend

=

dendritic

diam

=

diameter

dors

=

dorsal

e, ea

=

early stage egg (used with the number of eggs measured under the heading “Obs”)

exp

=

expanded

f-

=

fore-

ffold

=

fin fold

GB

=

Georges Bank

GOM

=

Gulf of Maine

h-

=

hind- (e.g. h-brain, h-gut)

homo

=

homogenous

in

=

inshore (used as part of geographical location under the heading “Area”)

info

=

information

irreg

=

irregular

la

=

late

lat

=

lateral, laterally

MA, MAB

=

Middle Atlantic Bight

max

=

maximum

melan

=

melanophore

memb

=

membrane

m

=

middle stage egg (used with the number of eggs measured under the heading “Obs”)

m-

=

mid- (e.g., mid-brain)

min

=

minimum

mon

=

month

multi

=

multiple

n

=

north (used as part of geographical location under the heading “Area”)

ND

=

not defined

no.

=

number

NYB

=

New York Bight

obs

=

observed

off

=

offshore (used as part of geographical location under the heading “Area”)

oil g,

=

oil globule

og

=

oil globule

pect

=

pectoral

pigm

=

pigment, pigmented, pigmentation

post

=

posterior

pr

=

pair

pt-to-pt

=

point-to-point

punct

=

punctate

Pv space

=

perivitelline space

s

=

south (used as part of geographical location under the heading “Area”)

SAB

=

South Atlantic Bight

SD

=

standard deviation

scatt

=

scattered

segm

=

segmented

SN, SNE

=

Southern New England

spp

=

species

sta

=

station

stell

=

stellate

surf

=

surface

trans

=

transition

ttip

=

tailtip

Unk #

=

Unknown taxa number (e.g., Unk # 123)

w

=

west (used as part of geographical location under the heading “Area”)

Taxa
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Literature Cited

Bullis HR Jr, Roe RB, Gatlin JC. 1972. The Southeast Fisheries Center Biometric Code Part 1: Fishes. NOAA Tech Rep NMFS-SSRF-659; 95 p.

Fahay MP. 1983. Guide to the early stages of marine fishes occurring in the western North Atlantic Ocean, Cape Hatteras to the southern Scotian Shelf. J Northw Atl Fish Sci 4; 423 p.

Hildebrand SF. 1963. Family Engraulidae. In: Fishes of the western North Atlantic. Mem Sears Found Mar Res 1(3); 152-249 + figs 25-29.

Jones PW, Martin FD, Hardy JD Jr. 1978. Family Clupeidae. In: Development of fishes of the Mid-Atlantic Bight: an atlas of egg, larval and juvenile stages. US Dept Interior, Fish and Wildl Serv, Biol Serv Progr Vol 1:75-150.

Olney JE, Grant GC. 1976. Early planktonic larvae of blackcheek tonguefish, Syphurus plagiusa (Pisces: Cynoglossidae), in the lower Chesapeake Bay. Chesapeake Sci 17:229-237.

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