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Otolith oxygen isotopes measured by high-precision secondary ion mass spectrometry reflect life history of a yellowfin sole (Limanda aspera)


Correspondence to: M. E. Matta, Resource Ecology and Fisheries Management Division, Alaska Fisheries Science Center, National Marine Fisheries Service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, 7600 Sand Point Way NE, Seattle, WA 98115, USA.




The oxygen isotope ratio (δ18O value) of aragonite fish otoliths is dependent on the temperature and the δ18O value of the ambient water and can thus reflect the environmental history of a fish. Secondary ion mass spectrometry (SIMS) offers a spatial-resolution advantage over conventional acid-digestion techniques for stable isotope analysis of otoliths, especially given their compact nature.


High-precision otolith δ18O analysis was conducted with an IMS-1280 ion microprobe to investigate the life history of a yellowfin sole (Limanda aspera), a Bering Sea species known to migrate ontogenetically. The otolith was cut transversely through its core and one half was roasted to eliminate organic contaminants. Values of δ18O were measured in 10-µm spots along three transects (two in the roasted half, one in the unroasted half) from the core toward the edge. Otolith annual growth zones were dated using the dendrochronology technique of crossdating.


Measured values of δ18O ranged from 29.0 to 34.1‰ (relative to Vienna Standard Mean Ocean Water). Ontogenetic migration from shallow to deeper waters was reflected in generally increasing δ18O values from age-0 to approximately age-7 and subsequent stabilization after the expected onset of maturity at age-7. Cyclical variations of δ18O values within juvenile otolith growth zones, up to 3.9‰ in magnitude, were caused by a combination of seasonal changes in the temperature and the δ18O value of the ambient water.


The ion microprobe produced a high-precision and high-resolution record of the relative environmental conditions experienced by a yellowfin sole that was consistent with population-level studies of ontogeny. Furthermore, this study represents the first time that crossdating has been used to ensure the dating accuracy of δ18O measurements in otoliths. Copyright © 2013 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.