Otolith shape: a population marker for Atlantic herring Clupea harengus

L.A. Libungan, Guðmundur J. Óskarsson, Jan Arge Jacobsen, Snæbjørn Pálsson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

48 Citations (Scopus)


Otolith shape variation of seven Atlantic herring Clupea harengus populations from Canada, the Faroe Islands, Iceland, Ireland, Norway and Scotland, U.K., covering a large area of the species' distribution, was studied in order to see if otolith shape can be used to discriminate between populations. The otolith shape was obtained using quantitative shape analysis, transformed with Wavelet and analysed with multivariate methods. Significant differences were detected among the seven populations, which could be traced to three morphological structures in the otoliths. The differentiation in otolith shape between populations was not only correlated with their spawning time, indicating a strong environmental effect, but could also be due to differing life-history strategies. A model based on the shape differences discriminates with 94% accuracy between Icelandic summer spawners and Norwegian spring spawners, which are known to mix at feeding grounds. This study shows that otolith shape could become an accurate marker for C. harengus population discrimination.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1377-1395
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Fish Biology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2015


  • mixed fisheries
  • pelagic fish
  • population discrimination
  • shape analysis


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