Navigation Links
Fishy future written in the genes

The roadmap to the future of the gorgeously-decorated fish which throng Australia's coral reefs and help earn the nation $5 billion a year from tourism may well be written in their genes.

Of particular importance may be to protect 'pioneer' fish populations which are able to re-colonise regions of reef devastated by global warming and other impacts or settle new areas as the corals move south, says Dr Line Bay of the ARC Centre of Excellence in Coral Reef Studies, James Cook University (JCU) and Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS).

Dr Bay and her colleagues Dr Julian Caley of AIMS and Prof Ross Crozier of the School of Marine and Tropical Biology, JCU have been studying the relationships among fishes across the Great Barrier Reef using genetic means to establish which populations are long-established and which seem to come and go in a pattern of local extinction and re-colonisation.

By studying the mitochondrial DNA of spiny damselfish collected from 15 reefs along 3 transects (lines) across the north, middle and south of the GBR, the researchers have been able to build up a 'history' of the damselfish's population.

"It's really interesting. We found, for example, that populations at the southern end of the Great Barrier Reef are 'younger' than those in the central or northern parts and have experienced larger population fluctuations. This suggests they undergo cycles of local extinction and re-settlement, which are nothing to do with human activity whereas the central and northern populations are far more stable."

Dr Bay says these fish populations that come and go at the edge of the Great Barrier Reef may represent the sort of natural pioneering that goes on at reef margins normally: however in times of extreme change such as global warming and acidifying oceans they take on fresh significance.

"It's about understanding how fish populations on separate reefs are connected to one another that is the key to whether or not a species may be at risk of complete extinction.

The spiny damselfish is significant because, unlike many other reef fish it does not release its eggs into the sea currents, but broods them on the home reef, meaning that a much higher percentage of its young 'stay home' rather that settle on distant reefs.

"Our work clearly indicates that this damselfish is a homebody that rarely moves far from its natal reef. When these fish do move, they don't go far and tend to relocate to neighbouring reefs and this can be seen in their genes. What is also clear is that not all populations are equal and that some populations may be more vulnerable to natural population size fluctuations and local extinctions compared to others. These population dynamics have probably been going on for a long time before humans started impacting on the reef."

However the research has immediate relevance to successful management of the GBR in times of extreme change, she adds. "If we can understand how reefs are connected, in terms of their fish populations, we can make sure we take steps to protect the ones which supply the pioneers who resettle devastated or maybe new coral areas if corals move in response to warmer water and changed conditions.

A particular area of interest is the southern end of the GBR, off Gladstone, where scientists expect that corals which have less tolerance for the very high water temperatures likely to occur further north will settle, bringing with them populations of reef fish.

Dr Bay says that the spiny damselfish population at the southern end of the GBR displays this unstable, ebb-and-flow pattern in its genes.

"If populations on the edge of the distribution are the ones that we rely on to colonise new habitats, then we need to make sure they are adequately protected," she says

"Our data indicate that they are potentially more vulnerable than more centrally located populations. This in turn suggests that management should pay particular attention to such southern populations."


Contact: Dr. Line Bay
ARC Centre of Excellence in Coral Reef Studies

Related biology news :

1. Growing a garden of future environmental leaders
2. Carbon nanostructures form the future of electronics and optoelectronics
3. Universities develop a more sustainable future
4. Sowing a future for peas
5. A stronger future for the elderly
6. Future for clean energy lies in big bang of evolution
7. New book tutors future presidents and public on science behind the headlines
8. Genetic data promises new future for kiwi fruit
9. A bees future as queen or worker may rest with parasitic fly
10. Training future scientists at the Ecological Society of Americas 93rd Annual Meeting
11. Study: Future snowmelt in West twice as early as expected; threatens ecosystems and water reserves
Post Your Comments:
(Date:6/1/2016)... , June 1, 2016 Favorable ... Election Administration and Criminal Identification to Boost Global Biometrics ... recently released TechSci Research report, " Global Biometrics Market ... Competition Forecast and Opportunities, 2011 - 2021", the global ... by 2021, on account of growing security concerns across ...
(Date:5/12/2016)... , a brand of Troubadour Research & ... Q1 wave of its quarterly wearables survey. A particular ... a program where they would receive discounts for sharing ... "We were surprised to see that so many ... CEO of Troubadour Research, "primarily because there are segments ...
(Date:4/28/2016)... First quarter 2016:   , Revenues amounted to ... of 2015 The gross margin was 49% (27) ... operating margin was 40% (-13) Earnings per share rose ... was SEK 249.9 M (21.2) , Outlook   ... The operating margin for 2016 is estimated to exceed ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:6/23/2016)... , June, 23, 2016  The Biodesign Challenge ... envision new ways to harness living systems and biotechnology, ... Art (MoMA) in New York City ... 130 participating students, showcased projects at MoMA,s Celeste Bartos ... Paola Antonelli , MoMA,s senior curator of architecture and ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... , ... June 23, 2016 , ... ... announced the launch of the Supplyframe Design Lab . Located in Pasadena, ... explore the future of how hardware projects are designed, built and brought to ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... ... ... In a new case report published today in STEM CELLS Translational Medicine, ... after being treated for breast cancer benefitted from an injection of stem cells derived ... debilitating, frequent side effect of cancer treatment. , Lymphedema refers to the ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... NEWPORT BEACH, Calif. , June 23, 2016 /PRNewswire/ ... offering new biological discoveries to the medical community, has ... and co-founder Matthew Nunez . "We ... provide us with the capital we need to meet ... funding will essentially provide us the runway to complete ...
Breaking Biology Technology: