Previous field studies have recorded yearly variations in fecundity of 40–60% in similar sized plaice, and an experiment was conducted to investigate whether these changes could be generated, in the laboratory, by feeding plaice different levels of ration. One group of plaice was fed at a rate of about 2–2.3% of wet body weight per day, and a second group was fed initially 0.5% and later 1.8% per day. The experiment lasted for a period of 406 days.
Of those fed on the lower ration, 39% produced no granular oocytes, whereas all fish on the higher ration produced granular oocytes. A comparison between the two groups, of those which did produce granular oocytes, found that the better-fed fish had 59% more granular oocytes, but the differences were less pronounced for the smaller, mature fish. Numbers of resting oocytes are also recorded.
The results suggest that food level can significantly affect fecundity, and also revealed a new mechanism for regulation of fecundity in the plaice. The lack of granular oocytes was not due to atresia, but to an early decision not to proceed with gonad development; whether this is of practical significance for the population of plaice in the wild is not yet established.