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Free Content Coral Sea Atoll Lagoons: Closed Nurseries for the Larvae of a Few Coral Reef Fishes

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Lagoons of two western Coral Sea atolls (Osprey and Holmes Reefs) were sampled with oblique bongo-net tows and neuston tows a total of three times over 3 years. Equivalent samples were taken in the ocean nearby. Concentrations of oceanic larvae in the lagoons were 13–14% of concentrations in the ocean, but oceanic taxa constituted less than 1% of the larvae captured in the lagoons. Concentrations (number⋅m–3) and abundances (number⋅ m–2) of shorefish larvae were 4–10 times higher in the lagoon than in the ocean, but larvae of more shorefish taxa were found in the ocean. In the lagoons catches were heavily dominated by larvae of apogonids, clupeids, gobiids, pomacentrids and schindleriids. Taxonomic composition in the lagoons varied little. Based on presence/absence, and sizes of the larvae captured, only 33 taxa (of 15 families) complete or probably complete their pelagic larval period within these atoll lagoons. These include (number of species where larvae were identified below family level): Apogonidae (9), Atherinidae (2), Belonidae (1), Blenniidae (4), Bythitidae (1), Clupeidae (1), Gobiidae, Hemiramphidae, Lutjanidae (1), Microdesmidae (1), Nemipteridae (1), Pempherididae (1), Pomacentridae (3), Pseudochromidae (4), Schindleriidae (1), Tripterygiidae. In contrast, many reef fishes (from 31 families) were found not to complete their pelagic phase in the lagoons. Thus, only a few fish taxa are capable of completing their life cycles in atoll lagoons, but larvae of most of those that do are abundant. These taxa have predominately closed populations, demonstrating that, contrary to the current paradigm, not all coral reef fishes live in predominately open populations. Although these taxa have closed lagoonal populations over ecological time scales, the wide distribution of the taxa and the ephemeral nature of atoll lagoons make it unlikely they have closed populations over evolutionary time scales.

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 1994-01-01

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  • The Bulletin of Marine Science is dedicated to the dissemination of high quality research from the world's oceans. All aspects of marine science are treated by the Bulletin of Marine Science, including papers in marine biology, biological oceanography, fisheries, marine affairs, applied marine physics, marine geology and geophysics, marine and atmospheric chemistry, and meteorology and physical oceanography.
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