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We can determine the age of a larval tarpon by dissecting an otolith out of its head.  The otolith is a round bone found in the inner ear that helps the fish orient its balance.  It's about the size of a grain of powdered sugar.  We then cut it in half and count the rings - it grows by depositing a new ring each day (much like the rings in a tree).

Otolith data show that tarpon spawn around the full moons in summer.

Larval entry into the lagoons is heavily influenced by weather and current systems that push ocean water toward shore.  In 1995, Hurricane Erin came ashore right over our sampling site in Sebastian Inlet - and pushed huge numbers of tarpon larvae (and other fishes) right into their estuarine nursery habitat.  Hurricanes may be good things for tarpon!