Chemical Archives in Fishes Beyond Otoliths: A Review on the Use of Other Body Parts as Chronological Recorders of Microchemical Constituents for Expanding Interpretations of Environmental, Ecological, and Life-history Changes

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Microchemical analyses of fish otoliths have revolutionized fisheries science. Molecules deposited within otoliths may originate from ambient water and diet, with molecular concentrations being subject to subsequent physiological alteration after exposure. Analyses of otolith microstructure and incorporation of inorganic elements have led to major advances in stock assessment and fisheries ecology. However, the use of otoliths for microchemical analyses has drawbacks. Specifically, otolith removal from live specimens requires specimen sacrifice, which may be forbidden in the case of protected species. In addition, otoliths rarely contain sufficient concentrations of organic matter to allow reconstruction of food-web relationships via multiple stable isotopes, and otolith microstructure can be difficult to interpret in some species. Here, we review alternatives to otoliths that can provide microchemical analytes for life-history studies in fishes. Our focus is to describe advantages and disadvantages to the use of each alternative structure, with particular attention paid to trace-element analysis for inorganic matrices and stable-isotope analysis for organic ones. In general, the chronological analysis of elemental and isotopic values within each structure depends on the inert nature (or lack of molecular turnover) of the tissue. Structures with high turnover rates or those that are metabolically active will not effectively record elemental or isotopic compositions over time. Here, we provide an assessment of the use of bony endoskeleton, fin spines, fin rays, scales, and eye lenses as alternatives or complements to fish otolith analysis.

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Limnology and Oceanography: Methods, v. 15, issue 3, p. 238-263