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Recruitment of the 2002–2012 year classes to the North Sea herring stock has been below expectations given the spawning biomass, due to exceptionally low overwinter survival of larvae. Here, we investigate whether changes in survival of larvae in the northwestern North Sea could be attributed to changes in parasite prevalence or feeding conditions. We used a method that combined particle tracking models and survey data to estimate survival, and microscopic examination of gut contents of archived samples of larvae collected in February each year between 1995 and 2007 to investigate parasite prevalence and feeding. We deduced that we can use the incidence of tetraphyllidean parasites as an index of the cumulative feeding history of the larval population. We found that the prevalence of larvae of a tetraphyllidean cestode in the gut contents varied significantly between years and was positively correlated with feeding success. High feeding success, indicated by high prevalence of tetraphyllideans, influenced survival by offsetting the effect of a second parasite type, a digenean trematode. We suggest that variability in cumulative food intake over the lifespan up to February is a significant determinant of variability in survival.
- North Sea
Heath, M., Mar 2009, Aberdeen. 84 p.
Research output: Book/Report › Commissioned report