• age validation;
  • ecology;
  • killifishes;
  • south-east Africa;
  • temporary pools

The age structures of populations of African annual Nothobranchius spp. were examined for the first time. Daily increments in sagittal otoliths of Nothobranchius furzeri, Nothobranchius kadleci, Nothobranchius orthonotus and Nothobranchius rachovii from southern and central Mozambique were used for age determination. Four hypotheses were tested: (1) timing of hatching is consistent with the calendar onset of the rainy season, (2) hatching is synchronized within a population in a pool, (3) there is a difference in hatching date between geographical regions differing in mean total annual precipitation and (4) sympatric Nothobranchius spp. hatch at the same time. The results show that daily increment analysis represents an applicable method for age determination in Nothobranchius spp. Despite a significant positive relationship between age and size of fishes, a pronounced variation in fish size at an age precluded the use of fish size as a valid age marker. Timing of hatching was not consistent with the calendar onset of the rainy season. Interpopulation variability was observed in the degree of hatching date synchronization within a population. Hatching dates were relatively uniform in some populations, while there was considerable variability in others. Differences in timing of hatching date were found in only 1 of 2 years within the three regions investigated (Chefu, lower Limpopo and Sofala regions), each of which differed in mean total annual rainfall. The hatching dates of sympatric Nothobranchius spp. were marginally different, but further testing on a larger sample is needed for conclusive results.