The demersal bathyal fish assemblage of the Central-Western Mediterranean: Depth distribution, sexual maturation and reproduction.

Deep-sea Fish Spawning period Segregation patterns Size at maturity Mediterranean sea


This study compiles information on the distribution and reproductive patterns of five chondrichthyans and 10 bony species dwelling on the continental slope of the Central-Western Mediterranean (south-eastern Sardinian waters, depth 720–1890 m).
The abundance of the relatively less numerous chondrichthyans was found to decrease with depth. Almost all chondrichthyan species had a long reproductive period throughout the year at all depths. In bony fishes, the upper bathymetric stratum (<1100 m) was dominated by species with continuous and seasonal (autumn-winter) spawning cycles. At intermediate and lower depths (>1100 m), continuous reproduction was the most common pattern. Both chondrichthyans and bony fishes exhibited large s at maturity and at first maturity (>75% and >60% of their maximum body length, respectively), supporting the hypothesis that most deep-sea fish populations are characterized by a delayed maturity, which makes them highly vulnerable to fishing pressure and over-exploitation.
In some sharks, population partitioning was observed, according to life stage as a function of depth: adult/mature females occupied deeper habitats than males and juveniles. Conversely, Dipturus nidarosiensis female and male juveniles (>1100 m) were segregated from the adult/mature population, dwelling between 1000 and 1100 m. In four of the 10 bony fishes examined, we found a clear and significant predominance of females, particularly pronounced in Alepocephalus rostratus, which is clearly related to their K-reproductive strategy. The four key-selected species (Galeus melastomus, A. rostratus, Bathypterois mediterraneus and Trachyrincus scabrus), characterized by different reproductive strategies/modalities and feeding behaviours, were differently affected by depth and fluxes of organic matter (Particulate Organic Carbon concentration) from the photic zone towards the sea-bottom as a function of sex and life -stage.