• growth acceleration;
  • otolith;
  • otolith check;
  • Parapercis snyderi;
  • protogyny;
  • sex change

The temporal relationship between growth history, sex-specific growth divergence and sex change was investigated in the haremic sandperch Parapercis snyderi using otolith microstructure and gonad histology. Parapercis synderi was found to display rapid near-linear growth with a maximum longevity of 303 days. All individuals matured first as female and later changed sex to become male (monandric protogynous hermaphroditism). Individual age-based growth histories obtained from otolith increment widths illustrated that males were larger than females at any given age. Males were found to diverge from the female growth trajectory during two ontogenetic periods; during the larval period and during the period that sex change took place. In addition, male otoliths contained a discontinuity, or ‘check mark’, associated with the rapid increase in otolith growth during the sex-change period. This microstructural feature was absent from all female otoliths. Accelerated growth in male otoliths lasted up to 25 days, following check-mark formation, after which time otolith growth returned to the pre-check-mark rate. Given the isometric relationship between otolith and somatic growth in P. synderi, and the temporal relationship between the time of check-mark formation and gonad condition, these results strongly suggest that individuals accelerate somatic growth during sex change to become the largest members of the population. Moreover, evidence suggests that the factors that determine the initial growth of larvae influence which individuals will later become males and achieve the highest reproductive success.