Spawning segregation and philopatry are major prezygotic barriers in sympatric cryptic Mugil cephalus species
Shen, K.-N.; Chang, C.-W.; Durand, J.-D.
Comptes Rendus Biologies 338(12): 803-811
The flathead mullet, Mugil cephalus, is a commercially vital fish in fisheries and aquaculture worldwide. Genetic analyses have recently revealed three cryptic species of M. cephalus in the Northwest Pacific. These species are sympatric in Taiwanese waters and specific reproductive behaviors have been suggested to be a major prezygotic barrier. Species composition was evaluated in samples of M. cephalus at different growth stages collected from various habitats (offshore spawning ground, estuarine nursery and feeding areas) over several months or years. The gonadosomatic index of adults and the body length of juveniles were recorded to determine the reproductive season and recruitment periods in estuaries. The results revealed partially temporal spawning isolation between species pairs, spatial segregation on specific spawning grounds and strong philopatry preclude hybridization. Thus, the results imply that traditional fisheries of mature fish in the Taiwan Strait target only one species, whereas aquaculture in Taiwan contain juveniles of all three species collected in estuaries. The ecological niche and demography of these species must be investigated further to estimate the impact of juvenile sources on aquaculture.