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Aggregation and spawning of the humphead wrasse Cheilinus undulatus (Pisces: Labridae): general aspects of spawning behaviour

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The humphead wrasse Cheilinus undulatus formed resident spawning aggregations daily after high tide at specific locations along the seaward edge of the Palau barrier reef. The location and extent of one aggregation site remained consistent for 6 years with no physical features distinguishing it from adjacent areas. Spawning was documented most months and probably occurred year round with possible seasonal and lunar variation. Spawning males arrived first at the site, followed by females and potentially small primary males. The aggregation female to male sex ratio was estimated to be between 6:1 and 10:1. A maximum of 15 males and 100–150 females were observed at the site. A male courtship posture with the anal fin pointed, the caudal fin folded down and the dorsal fin folded against the body was maintained while swimming a few metres off the bottom in view of females. When ready to spawn females rose up as the posturing male passed and the pair released gametes in a relatively sedate fashion near the surface along the shelf break. No attempted predation on spawning adults was seen. Egg predation after spawning was uncommon. On days with early to mid-day high tides the spawning period started 2·0–2·5 h after high tide when the speed of lagoon–ocean tidal currents peaked and lasted c. 1 h. On days with later afternoon high tides, spawning occurred sooner after high tide and before current speeds peaked. Other fishes with planktonic eggs spawned at the site as pairs or small groups in a rough succession after high tide with C. undulatus, the last species to spawn.

Keywords: currents; migration; spawning aggregation

Document Type: Regular Paper


Publication date: March 1, 2010


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