Leptocephalus assemblages and distribution patterns were studied in the Kuroshio-Oyashio transitional region of the western North Pacific. A total of 479 leptocephali, representing at least 21 species (types) including eight undescribed types, were collected during a cruise of the T/V Hokuho Maru from 8 to 30 May 2002. The most abundant leptocephali were the congrids Gnathophis nystromi nystromi and Gnathophis nystromi ginanago. The assemblages at each station were clustered into four groups (one group in the Kuroshio region and three in the transition zone) using the ordination and the fuzzy c-means method based on species composition similarities between stations. Each leptocephalus species was also clustered by the same method into one of three groups. The first group had the greatest numbers of species and mainly occurred at the station group in the Kuroshio region, sharing a similar distribution to G. n. nystromi. The second group had the greatest abundance, especially in the transition zone, but contained only one species, G. n. ginanago, which also occurred at all stations. Moreover discrimination of station groups in the transition zone corresponded well with the assemblage pattern of this species group. The last species group comprised rare and low abundance species. Most leptocephali in the study area were reported from the Kuroshio upstream region, so the discrimination of leptocephali assemblages in the study area may reflect their different ecology. Furthermore, the analytical methods used in this study yielded more meaningful and clearer groups than the other usual methods, validating application of this analysis to complex areas such as the transition zone.
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