Date of Award

Spring 1988

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Biological Sciences



Committee Director

Ray S. Birdsong

Committee Member

Thomas Munroe

Committee Member

Daniel Dauer

Call Number for Print

Special Collections LD4331.B46 H67


The tautog, Tautoga onitis (Pisces: Labridae), is rapidly gaining popularity in Virginia by anglers, spearfishermen and specialized commercial interests. In Virginia, tautog are seasonally abundant on hard bottom substrates in nearshore (ca. 2-10 m) habitats and inhabit offshore wrecks and reef areas (ca. 10-30 m) year round. Habitat restriction and slow growth of the species coupled with recent technological advances in marine electronics which simplify locating tautog populations by user groups may contribute to overexploitation of tautog within the region.

Tautog were collected over a two year period from the lower Chesapeake Bay and nearshore waters of the Atlantic Ocean to determine age and growth of the species within the region. Fish were initially aged using three structures; otoliths, opercle bones, and scales. Validation results indicate that tautog can be aged successfully with opercle bones. Annulus formation occurs during the protracted spawning season (May-July) in all age groups. Maturation occurs as early as age three in both sexes. Additionally, the observation of two adult male phases is noted.

Tautog are long-lived (25 yrs or more) and attain relatively large sizes (ca. 800 mm TL) slowly (k-values of 0.09 - 0.12). Growth rates were calculated by two methods; back-calculations and the Von Bertalanffy equation. The analysis of growth rates between the sexes were similar; however, males attain greater total asymptotic length but do not necessarily attain greater ages than females. A comparison of growth parameters made with studies from northern areas indicate that tautog attain greater size at an earlier age in Virginia waters. Comparisons of growth parameters are made with labrids and other reef-dwelling fishes. Management recommendations are based on habitat preference, growth rate and sexual strategy.


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