Fisheries-induced evolutionary changes in maturation reaction norms in North Sea sole Solea solea

F.M. Mollet, S.B.M. Kraak, A.D. Rijnsdorp

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74 Citations (Scopus)


Age and size at maturation decreased in several commercially exploited fish stocks, which, according to life history theory, may be due to fisheries-induced evolutionary change. However, the observed changes may also represent a plastic response to environmental variability. To disentangle phenotypic plasticity from evolutionary change, the probabilistic reaction norm approach was applied to 43 cohorts (1960 to 2002) of female sole Solea solea from market samples. The reaction norm for age and size at first maturation has significantly shifted towards younger age and smaller size. Size at 50% probability of maturation at Age 3 decreased from 28.6 cm (251 g) to 24.6 cm (128 g). This change was even stronger when condition was included as a third dimension in the reaction norm estimation. The influence of alternative factors was tested on the population level by regression of reaction norm midpoints on annual estimates of condition, temperature and competitive biomass. Although effects of temperature and competitive biomass were significant, the variation in the midpoints was best explained by the decreasing time trend. Therefore, the results provide strong evidence for a fisheries-induced evolutionary change in the onset of sexual maturity.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)189-199
JournalMarine Ecology Progress Series
Publication statusPublished - 2007


  • pleuronectes-platessa l
  • life-history evolution
  • long-term changes
  • cod gadus-morhua
  • coral-reef fish
  • phenotypic plasticity
  • natural-populations
  • social inhibition
  • sexual maturity
  • egg size

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