“The Otoliths” project
This multidisciplinary project aims to study the influence of size and sex on the morphological, structural and functional characteristics of the otoliths of small Mediterranean demersal fishes. In particular, the investigation is currently carried out on Merluccius merluccius (European hake) given its commercial and economic importance in the Mediterranean area. In this project, otoliths of individuals of different size and sex are studied in their morphological parameters, in their mineralogical and organic composition, and in their crystalline texture, applying different techniques that include hydrostatic analysis, optical and electronic microscopy, vibrational spectroscopy, thermal analysis and X-ray diffraction. Furthermore, high resolution 3D images, obtained by micro Computed Tomography (microCT), are applied for working on comparison between different growth forms, morphometrics of three-dimensional growth forms and high accuracy estimation of parameters which could be related to eco-morphological adaptations of the auditory system. This last part of the research is currently carried out in collaboration with the Computing Biology Laboratory of the University of Amsterdam and the Deutsches Elektronen-Synchrotron of Hamburg. The data resulting from this multi-scale project may provide useful information for a better understanding of the growth process of otoliths.