Evidence for secondary planktonic transport of post‐larvae of seagrass‐associated King George whiting
Stomach contents and stable isotope analyses were used to determine if secondary planktonic dispersal of King George whiting Sillaginodes punctata post‐larvae from shallow inshore habitats in a large embayment in south‐eastern Australia was initiated by wave disturbance. Benthic harpacticoid copepods, which live in and amongst seagrass shoots, were found in the stomachs of S. punctata caught offshore in the plankton only during rough weather. Stable isotope analyses showed that the base of nutritional support, estimated from values of δ13C, of S. punctata collected in the plankton changed significantly during rough (waves > 0·25 m) compared to calm (waves < 0·25 m) weather conditions. Values of δ13C collected from S. punctata in the plankton during rough weather were more consistent with S. punctata values found in the seagrass. Sillaginodes punctata collected in the plankton and seagrass during rough and calm weather failed to show differences in δ15N values. Dietary and isotope analyses support a model whereby newly arrived S. punctata larvae can be resuspended from seagrass beds and dispersed offshore by wave action during onshore winds. Secondary planktonic dispersal in S. punctata would provide a mechanism by which seagrass beds further inside Port Phillip Bay are colonized.
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