Re-interpretation of remains of snapper (Pagrus auratus) from Holocene middens at Bass Point and Currarong, New South Wales

Jennifer F. Owen*, John R. Merrick

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The abundant remains of snapper (Pagrus auratus), dated at 7,000-270 years BP, from coastal middens at Bass Point and Currarong have been re-examined and analysed. By comparing measurements of a suite of head bones with extensive reference collections, standard length (SL) ranges at different levels have been determined. This re-analysis shows that size ranges and class frequency profiles are similar between lower (or pre-hook) and upper (or hook) levels at each site and, although size ranges of both sites overlap to a large degree, the mean size (SL) of Currarong individuals is higher. The populations exhibit different structures with few (13-36 %) adults at Bass Point, in contrast to ∼ 88 % adults in both levels at Currarong. To test the hypothesis that angling results in an increase in size of individual snapper harvested, the pre-hook and hook level samples at each site have been statistically compared; however no significant size difference between snapper in the two levels is demonstrated. Similarly a combined comparison, with pooled data from both sites, does not show any difference in size related to the use of fish hooks. In addition to biological, environmental or technological factors influencing target species, it is suggested that population intensification, cultural change and variation in local economies be considered when interpreting diversity or size of fish remains in late Holocene coastal sites in New South Wales. The combination of life cycle features and behavioural traits that makes P. auratus susceptible to over-exploitation is briefly explained.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)191-201
Number of pages11
JournalProceedings of the Linnean Society of New South Wales
Issue number120
Publication statusPublished - 1998


  • Coastal middens
  • Holocene
  • Pagrus auratus
  • Re-interpretation
  • Sizing
  • Snapper remains
  • Social change


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