Nocturnal Vertical Distribution of Late-stage Larval Coral Reef Fishes Off the Leeward Side of Lizard Island, Great Barrier Reef, Australia
Vertical migration is a key factor affecting the extent to which reef fish larvae can actively influence their dispersal and the energetic expenditure required for locating and settling on a reef. This study used light traps to examine the nocturnal vertical distribution of late-stage reef fish larvae 1.5 km off the SW (leeward) side of Lizard Island. The largest numbers of late-stage reef fish larvae were found in the upper layers suggesting that many larvae may migrate into surface waters prior to settlement, at least on the leeward side of Lizard Island. All of the most abundant reef fish families were found throughout the water column. This broad depth distribution within families was not due to species-specific depth preference. There were consistent size-specific vertical distributions across several of the most abundant families, with larger individuals within each species near the surface and smaller individuals in the middle of the water column. The presence of structured vertical distributions in late-stage reef fish larvae, both among families and different sized individuals within species, provides evidence of differential water column use by settlement stage reef fish larvae.
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Document Type: Research Article
Publication date: 2004-11-01
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