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Keywords:

  • amphidromy;
  • Caribbean;
  • Gobiidae;
  • migratory diversity;
  • partial migration;
  • semi-amphidromous

Otolith microchemistry was applied to quantify migratory variation and the proportion of native Caribbean stream fishes that undergo full or partial marine migration. Strontium and barium water chemistry in four Puerto Rico, U.S.A., rivers was clearly related to a salinity gradient; however, variation in water barium, and thus fish otoliths, was also dependent on river basin. Strontium was the most accurate index of longitudinal migration in tropical diadromous fish otoliths. Among the four species examined, bigmouth sleeper Gobiomorus dormitor, mountain mullet Agonostomus monticola, sirajo goby Sicydium spp. and river goby Awaous banana, most individuals were fully amphidromous, but 9–12% were semi-amphidromous as recruits, having never experienced marine or estuarine conditions in early life stages and showing no evidence of marine elemental signatures in their otolith core. Populations of one species, G. dormitor, may have contained a small contingent of semi-amphidromous adults, migratory individuals that periodically occupied marine or estuarine habitats (4%); however, adult migratory elemental signatures may have been confounded with those related to diet and physiology. These findings indicate the plasticity of migratory strategies of tropical diadromous fishes, which may be more variable than simple categorization might suggest.