Otolith shape analysis of three gobiid species of the Northwestern Black Sea and characterization of local populations of Neogobius melanostomus
The present study describes the otolith shape and age of three species of Gobiidae: Neogobius melanostomus (Pallas, 1814), Ponticola eurycephalus (Kessler, 1974) and Mesogobius batrachocephalus (Pallas, 1814) from the Western part of the Black Sea. These phylogenetically close species showed otolith shape differences. The round goby, Neogobius melanostomus, showed differences in otolith shape between local populations, probably related to differences in diet and environmental variability influenced by the Danube River inputs in the North of the study area. The age of these commercially exploited species was estimated by otolith microstructural analysis and the results were linked to sex, size and weight. This information is valuable for fishery management purposes.