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Free Content Egg Dispersal in a Caribbean Coral Reef Fish, Thalassoma Bifasciatum. I. Dispersal Over the Reef Platform

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Pelagically-spawning coral reef fishes are hypothesized to select sites for spawning that result in eggs being rapidly transported away from reef areas. Experiments at an inshore reef platform off the southwest coast of Puerto Rico were conducted to test this hypothesis, with the blue head wrasse as the model species. Fluorescent dye was released to simulate spawning events during spawning times at eight spawning and eight nonspawning sites. The leading edge of each dye plume was marked at 10-min intervals until it moved off the reef platform. Differences in movement and pathways of water parcels originating from spawning and nonspawning sites were compared in terms of the total time water parcels spent over the reef platform, the distance they traveled over the reef platform, the depths and substrates over which they passed, and their initial current speeds. Comparisons were made on different scales: all spawning sites were compared with all nonspawning sites on the scale of the entire reef platform and on each of the three individual reefs making up the platform. Dye from spawning sites and dye from nonspawning sites moved over large, overlapping portions of the reef platform. Differences between spawning and nonspawning sites were generally in harmony with the hypothesis, but significant differences primarily were restricted to the scale of the platform and the largest individual reef (total distance traveled, depth after 10 min, current speed). Only depth after 10 minutes showed significant differences at all scales studied. In addition, the distributions of all spawning sites and nonspawning sites over the entire reef platform were not equal; in particular no spawning occurred over the forereef. In general, the results of this study provide evidence that supports the hypothesis that fishes choose specific spawning sites offering certain advantages relative to off-reef transport of eggs; however, these advantages may only be manifested over the short term.

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: January 1, 1994

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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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