The new results and the somewhat sparse literature on larval fish assemblages near Indo-Pacific coral reefs are assessed. Circulation around coral reefs is extremely complex, and has a major influence on distribution of assemblages. Adult spawning behavior can be important in determining
composition and distribution of assemblages, and the type of egg spawned (pelagic or non-pelagic) can help predict certain aspects of larval distributions. Vertically, there are strongly-structured assemblages which break up and reform on a diel basis: these are behaviorally determined by
the larvae. Horizontally, assemblages are more strongly structured along the onshore-offshore axis than longshore. Assemblages are strongly determined by habitat type, and may change little over distances of 10 s to 100 s of km within the same habitat. Where habitat does change, particularly
very near (<1 km) reefs, strong changes in assemblages of larval fish take place over short distances. Temporal influences on assemblages generally rank below spatial influences in magnitude, and those below the level of season are weak. Analysis of assemblages on the basis of age or developmental
stage, or on the basis of the habitat of the adults, can help to detect changes in assemblages over time and to gain insight into the processes involved in forming and maintaining the assemblages. An example from the Coral Sea is given. At medium to small horizontal scales (i.e., less than
the width of a continental shelf), correlations between assemblages of larvae and water masses or physical variables have usually not been found, but habitat type and topography are important in determining the type of assemblage present. Horizontal distribution of fish larva assemblages at
the scales considered here is the result of interaction of complex, local, three-dimensional circulation, adult spawning behavior, mode of spawning, larval behavior, and variably flexible life history characteristics. The relative importance of each varies among taxa, and perhaps among habitats.
Larval behavior is an important factor in determining the composition and distribution of fish larva assemblages in waters near coral reefs. Few studies of fish larva assemblages near coral reefs are available, so caution is necessary in applying the conclusions derived from them.
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