Patterns of metamorphosis in summer flounder, Paralichthys dentatus

M. Keefe, K. W. Able

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Summer flounder, Paralichthys dentatus, spawn over the continental shelf off the east coast of the United States from September to January with the peak in October–November. Based on plankton collections, mid‐metamorphic larvae (stages G‐H; mean s.l. 13.1 mm) enter Great Bay–Little Egg Harbor estuary in southern New Jersey as early as October with continued ingress through April. In the laboratory, mortality during metamorphosis ranged from 17 to 83% among treatment groups, and was significantly greater in flounder maintained at approximately 4°C relative to those maintained at ambient temperatures (daily average temperature 10.l°C). Laboratory‐reared summer flounder averaged 24.5 days (range 20 to 32 days) to complete metamorphosis (from Stage F– to Stage I) at ambient spring temperatures (daily average temperature =16.6° C). The time to completion of metamorphosis in wild‐caught flounder maintained in the laboratory was clearly temperature dependent. Both cold and ambient temperature treatments resulted in delayed metamorphosis such that, at ambient winter temperatures (daily average=6.6°C), partial metamorphosis (from Stage H – to Stage I) required as much as 92.9 days (range 67 to 99 days). There was no apparent effect of starvation on either mortality or time to completion of metamorphosis at cool water temperatures (< 10° C). It appears that prevailing temperature conditions influence the duration of metamorphosis in summer flounder, and that mortality during metamorphosis may play a significant role in the population dynamics of this species.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)713-728
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Fish Biology
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 1993

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Aquatic Science


  • Paralichthys dentatus
  • ingress
  • metamorphosis
  • summer flounder
  • transition


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