HCNSO Student Theses and Dissertations

Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

M.S. Marine Biology

First Advisor

Tracey Sutton

Second Advisor

David Kerstetter

Third Advisor

Patricia Blackwelder


The most speciose group of fishes in the Gulf of Mexico is the dragonfishes (Family: Stomiidae). These fishes are dominant mesopelagic predators occurring throughout the world’s oceans, including the Antarctic seas. Little is known regarding their reproductive ecology, a consequence attributed to insufficient sample sizes of mature adults due to inadequacies of sampling gear; larger, sexually mature stomiid adults are more adept at net avoidance, thereby obfuscating synoptic reproductive biology studies. Between 2010-2011, the Offshore Nekton Sampling and Analysis Program was initiated in the northern Gulf of Mexico over all four seasons using a discrete-depth sampling system (MOCNESS) and a large, commercial-sized midwater trawl (Irish herring trawl). Gonads were dissected from 714 individuals belonging to 47 species of stomiids, of which the most 12 abundant species were subjected to detailed analysis. Female ovaries possessed an asynchronous oocyte development, suggesting that females are iteroparous. Males exhibited a similar pattern. Chauliodus sloani had an overall sex ratio that favored females, and was the only species in which the overall sex ratio significantly differed from the expected 1:1 ratio (male:female) (P < 0.05). Considering just mature specimens, Aristostomias xenostoma, Malacosteus niger, Eustomias fissibarbis, and Eustomias schmidti had sex ratios that favored males, and were the only species in which the sex ratio significantly differed from even (P < 0.05). Eustomias hypopsilus was the only species in which mean biomass significantly differed between sexes. Histological analysis and binomial regression indicated that females of the 12 most abundant species matured at larger lengths than males. Generally, only females were present in the larger size classes, suggesting that females also become larger than males. Size distribution plots by gear type to assess gear selectivity revealed two patterns: the MOCNESS caught fewer specimens per species than the Irish herring trawl, and the MOCNESS caught predominantly smaller specimens. These data are essential for ecosystem-based modeling of global deep-pelagic ecosystems, which contain the overwhelming majority of Earth’s fish biomass.

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