Ecology of early stage yellowtail flounder (Limanda ferruginea) on the New York Bight continental shelf: Responses to anthropogenic and climate-induced change

Date of Award




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


Marine Biology and Fisheries

First Committee Member

Robert K. Cowen, Committee Chair


The goal of this dissertation was to investigate the settlement ecology of a commercially important/poorly studied species (yellowtail flounder, Limanda ferruginea) within an ecosystem where knowledge of the scales of variation is known. The New York Bight continental shelf functions as a highly productive nursery ground for over 30 species of groundfish. For specific guilds (i.e. flatfish), the generation of settlement variability is carried out over a complicated hierarchy of scales, each with its own associated suite of biological and physical processes. In a previous study, a simple, hierarchical framework classified L. ferruginea settlement as a large-scale process driven by interannual variations in water temperature and hydrography. The dissertation presented herein continues to explore this hypothesis (and related questions) using information gleaned from a variety of sources, including: archived databases, field collections, otolith microstructure analysis, and experimental manipulations. First, long-term data sets, as well as more recent field-oriented studies, were used to examine the hypothesized link between large-scale, atmosphere-ocean forcing and L. ferruginea recruitment in the Mid-Atlantic region. Second, patterns of settlement timing, size-at-settlement and pelagic/early benthic growth were evaluated for an exceptional and below-average year class during two contrasting environmental regimes. Finally, an experimental manipulation was undertaken to examine the influence of a large-scale fishing disturbance, relative to natural variability, and its impact on juvenile nursery habitat.


Biology, Ecology; Biology, Oceanography; Agriculture, Fisheries and Aquaculture

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