Age determination and validation studies of marine fishes: Do deep-dwellers live longer?

G. M. Cailliet, A. H. Andrews, E. J. Burton, D. L. Watters, D. E. Kline, L. A. Ferry-Graham

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

236 Scopus citations


Age determination and validation studies on deep-water marine fishes indicate they are difficult to age and often long-lived. Techniques for the determination of age in individual fish includes growth-zone analysis of vertebral centra, fin rays and spines, other skeletal structures, and otoliths (there are three sets of otoliths in most bony fish semicircular canals, each of which is made of calcium carbonate). Most have regular increments deposited as the fish (and its semicircular canals) grows. The most commonly used otolith for age determination is the largest one called the sagitta. Age validation techniques include: (1) tag-recapture, often combined with oxytetracycline injection and analysis in growth-zones of bone upon recapture; (2) analysis of growth-zones over time; and (3) radiometric approaches utilizing a known radioactive decay series as an independent chronometer in otoliths from bony fishes. We briefly summarize previous studies using these three validation approaches and present results from several of our radiometric studies on deep-water, bony fishes recently subjected to expanding fisheries. Radiometric age validation results are presented for four species of scorpaenid fishes (the bank, Sebastes rufus, and bocaccio, S. paucispinis, rockfishes, and two thornyhead species, Sebastolobus altivelis and S. alascanus). In addition, our analysis of scorpaenids indicates that longevity increases exponentially with maximum depth of occurrence. The reason that the deep-water forms of scorpaenid fishes are long-lived is uncertain. Their longevity, however, may be related to altered physiological processes relative to environmental parameters like low temperature, high pressures, low light levels, low oxygen, and poor food resources.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)739-764
Number of pages26
JournalExperimental Gerontology
Issue number4-6
StatePublished - 2001
Externally publishedYes


  • Age
  • Deep sea
  • Growth
  • Longevity
  • Marine fishes
  • Radiochemistry
  • Rockfishes
  • Scorpaenidae
  • Validation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Aging
  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics
  • Endocrinology
  • Cell Biology


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