Age Estimation of Burbot Using Pectoral Fin Rays, Branchiostegal Rays and Otoliths

Zachary B. Klein, Marc M. Terrazas, Michael C. Quist


Throughout much of its native distribution, burbot (Lota lota) is a species of conservation concern.  Understanding dynamic rate functions is critical for the effective management of sensitive burbot populations, which necessitates accurate and precise age estimates.  Managing sensitive burbot populations requires an accurate and precise non-lethal alternative.  In an effort to identify a non-lethal ageing structure, we compared the precision of age estimates obtained from otoliths, pectoral fin rays, dorsal fin rays and branchiostegal rays from 208 burbot collected from the Green River drainage, Wyoming.  Additionally, we compared the accuracy of age estimates from pectoral fin rays, dorsal fin rays and branchiostegal rays to those of otoliths.  Dorsal fin rays were immediately deemed a poor ageing structure and removed from further analysis.  Age-bias plots of consensus ages derived from branchiostegal rays and pectoral fin rays were appreciably different from those obtained from otoliths.  Exact agreement between readers and reader confidence was highest for otoliths and lowest for branchiostegal rays.  Age-bias plots indicated that age estimates obtained from branchiostegal rays and pectoral fin rays were substantially different from age estimates obtained from otoliths.  Our results indicate that otoliths provide the most precise age estimates for burbot.


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