Otolith chemistry has been successfully used to reconstruct the environmental history experienced by estuarine-dependent teleost fish, including movement between estuaries and coastal areas. However, application has been more limited in species exposed exclusively to oceanic waters, where gradients in physical and chemical properties are less extreme. To test whether otolith elemental signatures record spatial information in an oceanic species, we sampled otoliths from Patagonian toothfish (Dissostichus eleginoides), and used an inductively coupled plasma-mass spectrometer (ICP-MS) coupled to a laser ablation system to target the outer otolith edges corresponding to the period immediately prior to capture. Using multivariate analysis of variance and multivariate discriminant analysis, we found edge signatures discriminated toothfish by geographic region with near complete success: only 5% of fish caught off South America and in the Antarctic were misclassified to sampling areas in the other region. Moreover, edge signatures showed strong differences between sampling areas within each region: fish captured off South America classified to sampling areas therein with 79-84% success, and Antarctic fish to sampling areas therein with 50-67% success. These results compare favourably with rates of classification for estuarine-dependent fish, demonstrating that otolith elemental signatures can discriminate the geographic provenance of oceanic as well as estuarine-dependent fish.
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