Paper Type

Master's Thesis


College of Arts and Sciences

Degree Name

Master of Science in Biology (MS)



NACO controlled Corporate Body

University of North Florida. Department of Biology

First Advisor

Dr. Matthew E. Kimball

Second Advisor

Dr. Courtney T. Hackney

Third Advisor

Dr. Frank J. Hernandez

Fourth Advisor

Dr. Eric G. Johnson

Department Chair

Dr. Daniel C. Moon

College Dean

Dr. Barbara A. Hetrick


Estuaries are widely recognized as important habitats for the early life history stages of commercially and recreationally important marine fish species. In general the estuaries of northeast Florida are understudied, and there is a need to characterize the ichthyoplankton community at this important faunal boundary between temperate and tropical marine zones. To determine community structure and temporal patterns in the distribution and abundance of larval fish ingressing in to the Guana-Tolomato-Matanzas (GTM) estuary through its two inlets (St. Augustine and Matanzas), ichthyoplankton were sampled bi-weekly for one year at both inlets during nighttime spring flood tides beginning in March 2012. Samples were collected with a plankton net (1 m diameter with 1mm mesh) suspended 1 m below the surface in the water column. Over 30,000 individuals were collected, representing 74 taxa. Four families made up 90 % of the collection: Gobiidae (34.8 %), Sciaenidae (26.1 %), Engraulidae (19.3 %), and Gerreidae (9.3 %). Examination of the ichthyoplankton community revealed seasonal trends in species richness and in larval fish density; species richness and larval fish density were generally greatest during the protracted summer season. Spring and summer pulses in recruitment were evident in nearshore summer spawners (e.g., gobiids and engraulids), and winter peaks in recruitment were evident in marine spawned species (e.g., sciaenids, sparids, haemulids). The variety of taxa collected, and the patterns in the seasonal species assemblage of the ichthyoplankton community of the GTM estuary align with its geographical position near a faunal boundary.