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The University of Southampton
Ocean and Earth Science, National Oceanography Centre Southampton

Research project: Geochemistry of fish otoliths

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Otoliths, which are calcified sensory structures of teleost fish, are grown incrementally over a fish's life, creating banding patterns known as annuli. The otolith mineral contains trace elements and stable isotopes that can provide information on the biology and ecology of the fish. Otolith trace elements may reflect location and can therefore be used to track migration or identify stock structure. The isotopic composition of oxygen and carbon in otoliths reflects water composition and metabolic rate respectively. All these potential measures are complicated by the physiology of the fish. In our group we investigate biological influences on biomineral chemistry and explore questions in fish biology and ecology.

Metabolism and energy in the deep sea

Deep water animals are characterised by variable, but commonly low metabolic rates. Using stable isotope proxies we are exploring the metabolic diversity of deep water fish to ask if this general pattern is true, and to explore the evolutionary legacy of metabolism in deep sea fishes.

Roundnose grenadier otolith showing a line of laser ablation pits, with juvenile (J), mid-life (M) and late adult (A) zones (after Longmore et al., 2011)
Roundnose Grenadier Otolith

Tracking migrations

The chemical composition of otoliths is partially related to the water in which the fish lived. By comparing otolith chemistry between and within regions, we trace ontogenetic vertical and lateral migrations in deep water fish, and assess implications for management and evolutionary ecology.





Otolith section from Cataetyx laticeps, a deep water cusk eel (Source: C Longmore)
Otolith section - Cataetyx laticeps

Key Contacts

Dr Clive Trueman (Principal investigator)

Dr Craig Longmore (Research technician)

Mr Ming-Tsung Chung (Postgraduate research student)

Miss Diana Shores (Postgraduate research student)


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PhDs and Other Opportunities


Associated research themes

Geochemical Ecology

Related research groups


Key Publications

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