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Fish larvae find the reef by orienting: The earlier the better
Date:4/23/2012

or to come back to their home reef. This notion of 'larval homing behavior' is a new concept, but it makes sense when compared to other essential larval developmental traits such as first feeding and swimming. If early fish larvae can sense their way home, we were certainly missing an important component in current bio-physical models that would change predictions of marine population connectivity."

"Using this model we can add to Hjorts' hypothesis that 'behavior' is a main factor contributing to the survivorship of the larvae, as well," said Staaterman, a Ph.D. student at UM. "We have discovered that recruitment of reef-fish is linked to signals perceived by the pelagic larvae; if the signals disappear or weaken, larvae can get lost. Therefore, the health of the coral reef and its cues is not only critical to the adult reef-fishes, but it is also essential to the survivorship of their pelagic larvae."

This study also shows the importance of the health of the habitat, even in complex coastal circulation with eddies and counter-currents: The stronger the cue information radiating from the surrounding habitat, the higher the survival rate of the larvae.

The flexible numerical tool that was developed through this study will allow scientists to set up hypotheses about both the nature of the cues and the larval behavior of a wide variety of marine species. This knowledge will allow us to better understand the enigmatic ecological "black box" of the pelagic larval phase, and help communities to better manage marine resources.

"These kind of studies, where the paths of millions of fish larvae are simulated in a model ocean, are really only feasible with the newest generation of numerical models," said Helgers, a computer scientist who contributed to the model algorithm which is designed to answer questions on the interaction of larvae with ocean currents. "The model we have built is fast and reliable, which allows us to perform the
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Contact: Barbra Gonzalez, UM Rosenstiel School
barbgo@rsmas.miami.edu
305-421-4704
University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine & Atmospheric Science
Source:Eurekalert  

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