Marine Research Findings of the VECTORS Project

This website provides access to the research results of the VECTORS project, which can be used to support marine management decisions, policies and governance as well as future research and investment. VECTORS was a large scale project that brought together more than 200 expert researchers from 16 different countries. It examined the significant changes taking place in European seas, their causes, and the impacts they will have on society.

Predicting growth of fish early life stages

In their early life stages, fish are very sensitive to environmental conditions. For example, water that is too cold will delay egg development and hatching, and a lack of suitable food will reduce larval fish growth and survival. We developed a modelling tool (“Quirks”) that simulates the growth of different types of marine fish larvae based on their unique biological traits.


The recent increase and expansion of North Sea anchovy is consistent with simulated larval fish growth. Warmer summers are generally favourable for anchovy larvae, but also make them more dependent on good feeding conditions.

Quirks builds on decades of research into marine fish larvae, and summarises the most essential mechanisms of larval foraging and growth in form of a generic mathematical model. Growth rates predicted for anchovy, cod, herring, and sprat larvae under various environmental conditions have been validated and are reasonably accurate. The North Sea anchovy example involves greater uncertainty, because the environmental data used as model input are themselves uncertain. Nevertheless it is clear that the main driver of larval growth and survival potential is the interaction between temperature and prey.

Lead Author:

Klaus B. Huebert
University of Hamburg (UHAM)
Date of research:

Related articles:

Species richness, abundance in North Atlantic fish

Processes impacting overwintering larval survival 

Response of plaice and sole to climate change 

Changes on stocks and management in saithe fishery 

Climate change: flatfish and shrimp fisheries 

Cod, recruitment, temperature and zooplankton

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This project has received funding from the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme for research, technological development and demonstration under grant agreement no 266445
© Vectors 2015. Coordinated by Plymouth Marine Laboratory.