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University researchers observe surprising bonefish spawning behavior in the Bahamas
Date:12/11/2013

the edge of the drop-off. These shallow water fish were now suspended in the deep ocean, in water thousands of feet deep. After an hour in the deep, the bonefish suddenly rushed upward, releasing their eggs and sperm as they reached 80 feet below the surface.

The spawn over, the fish quickly moved back into shallow water, and the school was gone by the next morning, headed home. Ongoing tracking of bonefish is also revealing exciting new information that bonefish are migrating 70 miles or more to get to this spawning location, and then reversing course to head home. At the spawning site, they left behind millions of fertilized eggs drifting in the water and beginning a two-month-long larval stage that will ideally result in settlement of baby bonefish somewhere in the Bahamas to begin the cycle over again.

Because bonefish typically live in shallow water in a small home range nearly all of the year, conservation strategies have focused only on shallow waters. However, previous research by Andy Danylchuk, also involved in this study, showed that bonefish migrate from the shallow flats to gather in large schools in discrete spawning regions, and then offshore to very deep water to spawn.

But this new research effort led by Adams shows that thousands of bonefish can be involved simultaneously in spawning aggregations, documents new spawning-associated behaviors, identifies distinct staging and spawning locations, documents predation by snappers and groupers (in addition to previously known predation by sharks and barracuda), and demonstrates long-distance spawning migrations.

These new observations help define conservation strategies required to maintain this vital fishery. Habitat losses from a variety of causesdegradation of shallow flats and nursery areas, disruption of water flow patterns by construction of roadways and causeways, and coastal water pollutionhave been implicated in bonefish population declines in many a
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Contact: Karen Rhine
krhine@fit.edu
321-674-8964
Florida Institute of Technology
Source:Eurekalert

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