A holistic approach to the age validation of Mullus barbatus L., 1758 in the Southern Adriatic Sea (Central Mediterranean).

holistic approach Mullus barbatus Southern Adriatic Sea Central Mediterranean


The growth of Mullus barbatus has been widely studied using different methods, but no previous study has focused on age validation. The uncertainty in estimating the age of the red mullet by otolith reading is linked to the number of false-growth increments laid down before the annulus. The capture of red mullets in the early life stage allowed us to estimate their at the metamorphosis from the pelagic to the demersal phase. The comparison between the metamorphosis and the back-calculated length of the first growth increment clarified the position of the false growth increment on the otolith. Moreover, the analyses of the otolith marginal increments in adult and juvenile specimens allowed us to define the deposition patterns of their annuli. The modal components of the length–frequency distribution analysis (LFDA) were identified in the winter survey (ELEFAN and Bhattacharya methods), and they did not show significant differences from the length back-calculation of the annuli. Moreover, no significant differences were found between the growth curves calculated by otolith reading (back-calculation and direct otolith reading) and the LFDA. The agreement between the length–frequency results and the otolith age estimation either corroborated or indirectly validated the growth pattern estimated in the otoliths of the red mullet, mainly when the direct validation methods (e.g. mark-recapture, captivity, radiochemical) were difficult to implement, like the case of this species. The comparison of the results of the present work to previous Mediterranean studies showed agreement with the slow growth pattern.