Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Units Program: Mississippi
Education, Research and Technical Assistance for Managing Our Natural Resources

Olive, J.A., H.L. Schramm, Jr., P.D. Gerard, E. Irwin. 2011. An evaluation of agreement between pectoral spines and otoliths for estimating ages of catfishes. American Fisheries Society Symposium 77:679-688.


Otoliths have been shown to provide more accurate ages than pectoral spine sections for several catfish populations; but sampling otoliths requires euthanizing the specimen, whereas spines can be sampled non-lethally. To evaluate whether, and under what conditions, spines provide the same or similar age estimates as otoliths, we examined data sets of individual fish aged from pectoral spines and otoliths for six blue catfish Ictalurus furcatus populations (n=420), 14 channel catfish Ictalurus punctatus populations (n=997), and 10 flathead catfish Pylodictus olivaris populations (n=947) from lotic and lentic waters throughout the central and eastern U.S. Logistic regression determined that agreement between ages estimated from otoliths and spines was consistently related to age, but inconsistently related to growth rate. When modeled at mean growth rate, we found at least 80% probability of no difference in spine- and otolith-assigned ages up to ages 4 and 5 for blue and channel catfish, respectively. For flathead catfish, an 80% probability of agreement between spine- and otolith-assigned ages did not occur at any age due to high incidence of differences in assigned ages even for age-1 fish. Logistic regression models predicted at least 80% probability that spine and otolith ages differed by ≤1 year up to ages 13, 16, and 9 for blue, channel, and flathead catfish, respectively. Age-bias assessment found mean spine-assigned age differed by less than 1 year from otolith-assigned age up to ages 19, 9, and 17 for blue catfish, channel catfish, and flathead catfish, respectively. These results can be used to help guide decisions about which structure is most appropriate for estimating catfish ages for particular populations and management objectives.