Ecology and physiology of early life-stage fishes

Processes of growth and survival during early life can have big influences on the dynamics of fish populations, but often occur in shallow, inshore areas that experience fluctuating environmental conditions and substantial human impacts. Understanding patterns and causes of variation in physiological performance of these young fishes can help to reveal processes of recruitment and identify fish habitat requirements.

A major focus of Dr Benjamin Ciottiā€™s research is on applying biochemical and molecular indices of growth and nutritional condition in juvenile fish, in order to establish patterns of variation in physiological performance in the wild. By examining how these patterns relate to underlying environmental variables, he aims to establish drivers of habitat quality. He has been instrumental in developing and applying nucleic acid based indices of growth in juvenile fishes from sandy beach and estuarine systems in the UK and USA (Ciotti et al., 2010).

Through applications of these tools he has successfully measured growth variability at spatial scales ranging from 100s of metres to 100s of kilometres, providing a more detailed picture of growth dynamics than previously possible (Ciotti et al., 2013b; Ciotti et al., 2013a; Ciotti et al., 2013c). These techniques are currently being applied by PhD student Anna Persson, to understand how the physical characteristics of beaches in the Southwest UK drive variation in habitat quality for juvenile flatfishes. 

Benjamin Ciotti is also working to understand and integrate influences of diverse physiological and ecological processes on the physiological performance of marine populations. Using in situ experiments with juvenile fishes in Scotland and the South Pacific, he has been testing whether differences in growth capacity among individuals contribute to growth variation in the wild (Fox et al., 2014; Ciotti and Planes, 2019).

<p>Ecology and physiology of early life-stage fishes<br></p>
Sampling for juvenile fishes at a beach in Cornwall
<p>Checking an in situ experiment with juvenile damselfishes in French Polynesia. Ecophysiology.<br></p>
Checking an in situ experiment with juvenile damselfishes in French Polynesia


Ciotti, B. J., and S. Planes. 2019. Within-generation consequences of postsettlement mortality for trait composition in wild populations: An experimental test. Ecology and Evolution 9(5):2550-2561. doi: 10.1002/ece3.4911

Ciotti, B. J., T. E. Targett, and M. T. Burrows. 2013a. Decline in growth rate of juvenile European plaice (Pleuronectes platessa) during summer at nursery beaches along the west coast of Scotland. Can J Fish Aquat Sci 70(5):720-734. 

Ciotti, B. J., T. E. Targett, and M. T. Burrows. 2013b. Spatial variation in growth rate of early juvenile European plaice Pleuronectes platessa. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 475:213-232. doi: doi: 10.3354/meps10087

Ciotti, B. J., T. E. Targett, R. D. M. Nash, R. S. Batty, M. T. Burrows, and A. J. Geffen. 2010. Development, validation and field application of an RNA-based growth index in juvenile plaice Pleuronectes platessa. J Fish Biol 77(10):2181-2209. 

Ciotti, B. J., T. E. Targett, R. D. M. Nash, and M. T. Burrows. 2013c. Small-scale spatial and temporal heterogeneity in growth and condition of juvenile fish on sandy beaches. J Exp Mar Biol Ecol 448:346-359. doi: DOI 10.1016/j.jembe.2013.08.003

Fox, C. J., T. E. Targett, B. J. Ciotti, K. de Kroon, L. Hortsmeyer, and M. T. Burrows. 2014. Size variation of 0-group plaice: Are earlier influences on growth potential a contributing factor? J Sea Res 88:59-66.