Most fishes have otoliths, paired “ear stones” that are used in hearing and balance. These structures grow with the fish by daily deposition of material, in concentric, onion-like fashion. By counting and measuring these daily increments we can obtain information on age and growth on a daily basis. Analysis of this otolith microstructure has enabled us to examine many processes occurring during early life such as environmental influences on larval growth and survivorship, mechanisms of larval transport, dynamics of dispersal and population connectivity, determinants of recruitment magnitude, and traits that influence survival in one stage and carry-over to influence survival in the next stage.

Thus, otolith microstructure is a valuable tool that allows us to shine a light into the “black box” of larval life and identify ecological and oceanographic processes that are important to population replenishment and fisheries recruitment.

Lab publications on methodology: