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Environmental Conditions, Diel Period, and Fish Size Influence the Horizontal and Vertical Movements of Red Snapper

May 19, 2021

Our results have implications for scientific surveys of red snapper used for population assessment and management.


Most demersal fishes are difficult to observe and track due to methodological and analytical constraints. We used an acoustic positioning system to elucidate the horizontal and vertical movements of 44 red snapper (Lutjanus campechanus) off North Carolina, USA, in 2019. Mean movement rate and distance off bottom varied by individual, with larger red snapper generally moving faster and spending more time farther off the bottom than smaller individuals. We used generalized additive mixed models that accounted for temporal autocorrelation in the data to show that mean hourly red snapper movement rate was lower during the day than at night and was negatively related to bottom water temperature. Moreover, red snapper spent more time off the bottom during the day than at night, and vertical movements were mostly related to bottom upwelling events that sporadically occurred in May–July. Our results and previous observations suggest that red snapper feed primarily on benthic organisms at night, and display diel vertical migration (i.e., thermotaxis) up to warmer waters (when present) during the day to aid digestive efficiency. Movement is a central organizing feature in ecology, and the sustainable management of fish will benefit from a better understanding of the timing and causes of fish movement.

Bacheler, N.M., Shertzer, K.W., Runde, B.J. , Rudershausen, P.J. and Buckel, J.A. Environmental conditions, diel period, and fish size influence the horizontal and vertical movements of red snapper. Sci Rep 11, 9580 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-021-88806-3


Last updated by Southeast Fisheries Science Center on 05/19/2021

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