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Life History and Courtship Behavior of Black Perch, Embiotoca jacksoni (Teleostomi: Embiotocidae), from Southern California
The black perch, Embiotoca jacksoni Agassiz, 1853, is a common reef fish associated with nearshore marine habitats of California, with the majority of the population occurring within the Southern California Bight. Black perch were collected throughout southern California from Santa Barbara to Carlsbad, including Santa Catalina Island, to determine their physical characteristics, growth, sex ratio, periodicity of reproduction, and length of gestation. Courtship observations were conducted using scuba along the King Harbor Breakwater in Redondo Beach, California, from January 2004 to December 2005 to verify periodicity of courting and associated reproductive behaviors. Specimens captured ranged from 75 to 220 mm standard length and from 18 to 487 g in total body weight. Seven age-classes were determined by otolith aging, with the growth rate tapering off after age-class one. Seventy percent of the individuals captured were from age-classes one to three. Growth rates did not differ between sexes. Mean monthly gonosomatic indexes for males peaked from July to November, with the highest mean occurring in October. Gestating females were found from December to May, with youngest gestating females being in age-class one. Courtship behaviors were observed within aggregations and in pairs from July to November, with males being the primary aggressors. Courtship postures occurred along the base of the reef, with pairs departing into caves for copulation. This study suggests that the black perch population within the Southern California Bight has different life history characteristics and reproductive timing than those in northern California.