Research project: Ecology Of The Pelagic Larvae Of Coral Reef Fishes
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Larvae Of Coral Reef Fishes
In common with many marine animals, fishes that live on coral reefs have a two-part life history: a relatively sedentary adult phase on the reef, and a potentially very mobile pelagic larval phase in open water. Adult reef fishes take little or no care of their young: most larvae end up off the reef into open water where they are left to fend for themselves for anywhere from two to 20 weeks before they must find a coral reef to settle on. Little is known of the biology of these tiny (typically, 1-20 mm long) fishes during this pelagic period in open water. Because most dispersal takes place during the pelagic larval phase, it is important to both researchers and managers to know what the larvae are doing, where they are doing it, and how far they move during the pelagic phase.
Distributional Ecology Of Reef-Fish Larvae
One major question our research seeks to answer is "where do the larvae spend their pelagic period". Work at the Australian Museum's research station at Lizard Island on the Great Barrier Reef and in the south Pacific islands of French Polynesia is aimed at answering this question. We now know, for example that larvae of some fishes normally remain within a few hundred metres of where they were spawned, that others can complete their pelagic stage in the lagoons of coral atolls, but that the vast majority apparently require more-or-less open waters during their pelagic phase.
This research has been supported by the ARC, the Commonwealth Department of Industry, Science and Technology, the Australian Museum and an international collaborative research program with French scientists ('PICS'). External collaborators include: Professor J Howard Choat of James Cook University, Townsville; Dr Peter J Doherty of the Australian Institute of Marine Science, Townsville; and Drs Rene Galzin and Vincent Dufour of the Universite de Perpignan, France. Australian Museum staff collaborators include Ms Sally E Reader and Dr Tom Trnski.