Journal of Ecology and Environment

pISSN 2287-8327 eISSN 2288-1220


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Published online September 14, 2020

Journal of Ecology and Environment (2020) 44:21

© The Ecological Society of Korea.

Otolith microchemistry reveals the migration patterns of the flathead grey mullet Mugil cephalus (Pisces: Mugilidae) in Korean waters

Seung Eun Bae1 and Jin-Koo Kim1

Department of Marine Biology, Pukyong National University, Busan, Korea

Correspondence to:Jin-Koo Kim

Received: April 27, 2020; Accepted: August 19, 2020

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The flathead grey mullet Mugil cephalus has the widest distribution among mugilid species. Recent studies based on mitochondrial DNA sequences showed that the species comprises at least 14 different groups, three of which occur in the northwest Pacific. We analyzed the otolith microchemistry of M. cephalus at several locations in Korea to improve understanding of migration pattern and population origin.>


We collected 123 sagittal otoliths from seven locations and determined their concentrations of eight elements (7Li, 24Mg, 55Mn, 57Fe, 60Ni, 63Cu, 88Sr, and 138Ba) using laser ablation inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry. Mean otolith elemental ratios differed significantly among the locations. The Sr:Ca, Fe:Ca, and Ba:Ca ratios were significantly higher than others, and useful chemical signatures for investigating the habitat use of M. cephalus populations. We identified five diverse and complicated migration patterns using the otolith data that we collected: estuarine resident (type I), freshwater migrant (type II), estuarine migrant (type III), seawater resident (type IV), and seawater migrant (type V). A canonical discriminant analysis plot revealed separation of two groups (type II in the Yellow Sea vs. other types in remaining locations). Two locations on Jeju Island, despite their close proximity, had fish with quite different migration patterns, corroborating previous molecular studies that distinguished two groups of fishes.>


We successfully showed that the migration patterns of the Korean mullet varied by location. Only fish from the western sector of Jeju had a unique migration pattern, which is likely confined population in this area. Among the eight otolith elements measured, the Sr:Ca ratio was found to be the best indicator of migration pattern and population origin.

Keywords: Mugil cephalus , Otolith microchemistry, Migration pattern, Korea, Population origin

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Journal of Ecology and Environment

pISSN 2287-8327 eISSN 2288-1220