It’s elemental, my dear Watson: validating seasonal patterns in otolith chemical chronologies

Karin Hüssy*, Maria Krüger-Johnsen, Tonny Bernt Thomsen, Benjamin Dominguez Heredia, Tomas Naeraa, Karin E. Limburg, Yvette Heimbrand, Kate McQueen, Stefanie Haase, Uwe Krumme, Michele Casini, Monica Mion, Krzysztof Radtke

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

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Accurate age data is essential for reliable fish stock assessment. Yet many stocks suffer from inconsistencies in age interpretation. A new approach to obtain age makes use of the chemical composition of otoliths. This study validates the periodicity of recurrent patterns in 25Mg, 31P, 34K, 55Mn, 63Cu, 64Zn, 66Zn, 85Rb, 88Sr, 138Ba, and 208Pb in Baltic cod (Gadus morhua) otoliths from tag-recapture and known-age samples. Otolith P concentrations showed the highest consistency in seasonality over the years, with minima co-occurring with otolith winter zones in the known-age otoliths and in late winter/early spring when water temperatures are coldest in tagged cod . The timing of minima differs between stocks, occurring around February in western Baltic cod and one month later in eastern Baltic cod; seasonal maxima are also stock-specific, occurring in August and October, respectively. The amplitude in P is larger in faster-growing western compared to eastern Baltic cod. Seasonal patterns with minima in winter/late spring were also evident in Mg and Mn, but less consistent over time and fish size than P. Chronological patterns in P, and to a lesser extent Mg and Mn, may have the potential to supplement traditional age estimation or to guide the visual identification of translucent and opaque otolith patterns used in traditional age estimation.
Original languageEnglish
JournalCanadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences
Issue number5
Pages (from-to)551-566
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • Age validation
  • Elements
  • Microchemistry
  • Otolith
  • Physiology
  • Seasonal patterns


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