Understanding the causes of variation in recruitment of marine fishes has been a central goal for marine ecologists, fishery scientists and resource managers over the last century. Although the idea that recruitment variability is linked to the pelagic environmental conditions that enhance larval growth, survival, and/or delivery is consensual, such relationship is poorly known for most species. In this study we analyzed patterns of recruitment and early life history of a temperate reef fish, Coris julis from the Azores archipelago to test the relationships between early life history and recruitment success over two consecutive years. Growth from hatch to larval age 30 d was the best predictor of recruitment, implying that fast growing larger-at-age larvae have a survival advantage and contribute more to high recruitment, supporting the "bigger-is-better" hypothesis. The "stage-duration" hypothesis and the predictions regarding the relationships between size at age (SAA), size at settlement (SAS) and recruit abundance were also partially supported. The results presented in this study highlight the importance of understanding the early life traits that determine recruitment and larval-survivorship patterns, especially early larval growth, as this may provide a basis for prediction of recruitment and thus management of resources. © 2010 Elsevier B.V.
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