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Coral-reef sounds enable nocturnal navigation by some reef-fish larvae in some places and at some times

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At Lizard Island, Great Barrier Reef, catches of fish larvae by light traps that broadcast nocturnal reef sounds (noisy traps) were compared with catches by quiet traps over two 2·5 week new-moon periods in November (XI) 2000 and January (I) 2001. Three areas were sampled: near-reef (NR, 500 m from the shore) in I, middle (M, 650 m) in I and XI and offshore (O, >1000 m) in XI. The most abundant taxa captured were Apogonidae, Blenniidae, Chaetodontidae, Lethrinidae, Mullidae and Pomacentridae. Significant differences in catch were found between areas, and a position effect was found at the O and M areas. At the NR and M areas, no taxa had significantly greater catches in quiet traps, but larvae of five taxa had significantly greater catches in noisy traps. These were (areas and times of greater catches): Apogonidae (NR; M XI), Mullidae (M I & XI), Pomacentridae (NR; M I & XI), Serranidae (M I) and Sphyraenidae (NR). At the offshore area, five taxa (Apogonidae, Blenniidae, Chaetodontidae, Mullidae and Pomacentridae) had significantly greater catches in quiet traps and only Lethrinidae had significantly greater catches in noisy traps. Thus some taxa (particularly apogonids and pomacentrids which had catches up to 155% greater in noisy traps, but also lethrinids and mullids, and perhaps others), were attracted to reef sounds at night, but this apparently varied with location and time. The sound-enhanced catches imply a radius of attraction of the sound 1·02–1·6 times that of the light. More than 65 m from the speaker,the broadcast sound levels at frequencies typical of fish hearing were equivalent to background levels, providing a maximum radius of sound attraction in this experiment.
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Keywords: Apogonidae; Pomacentridae; auditory localization; hearing; pelagic larvae; settlement

Document Type: Regular Paper

Affiliations: 1: Ichthyology, and Centre for Biodiversity and Conservation Research, Australian Museum, 6 College St, Sydney 2010, Australia and 2: Defence Science and Technology Organisation, P. O. Box 44, Pyrmont 2009, Australia

Publication date: 2003-09-01

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