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Hydrographic and fish larvae distribution during the “Godzilla El Niño 2015–2016” in the northern end of the shallow oxygen minimum zone of the Eastern Tropical Pacific Ocean



Based on hydrographic data and vertical distributions of tropical species of fish larvae (Diogenichthys laternatus, Vinciguerria lucetia, Bregmaceros bathymaster, and Auxis spp.), effects of “Godzilla El Niño 2015–2016” in the shallow oxygen minimum zone off Mexico were analyzed. Zooplankton samples were collected during four cruises, before (February 2010 and April 2012) and during (June 2015 and March 2016) the warm event. Temporal series of sea surface temperature revealed that June 2015 was the warmest June of the last years. Conservative temperature was >2°C higher than normal in the surface mixed layer, and the suboxic layer (4.4 µmol/kg) reached as shallow as 100 m depth. Unexpected results were that larval abundances were relatively high during the warm event, unlike zooplankton volumes, which declined. Before the warm event, V. lucetia and Auxis spp. were more abundant in the surface mixed layer, while B. bathymaster and D. laternatus dominated in the thermocline and shallow hypoxic layer (44 µmol/kg). However, during the event in June 2015, all species were most abundant in the surface mixed layer, which implied that the species adapted to hypoxia had inverted their normal pattern of distribution, possibly as consequence of the rise of the suboxic layer; however, further observations are required to confirm this generality. Results showed no dramatic change in the total larval abundance during the warm event. Nevertheless, a differential response in their vertical distribution was evident in association with changes in the depth of the shallow hypoxic and suboxic layers. This might indicate adaptability of tropical species to prolonged periods of warming in the oceans.