Patterns of embryo mortality in a demersally spawning coral reef fish and the role of predatory fishes

Emslie, Michael J., and Jones, Geoffrey P. (2001) Patterns of embryo mortality in a demersally spawning coral reef fish and the role of predatory fishes. Environmental Biology of Fishes, 60 (4). pp. 363-373.

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Abstract

The biological significance of embryo mortality in demersally spawning coral reef fishes is poorly understood. Here we describe patterns of variation in embryo mortality in Pomacentrus amboinensis (Pomacentridae) at Lizard Island (Great Barrier Reef). The aim was to determine whether numbers of embryos hatched substantially differed from egg production, and if so, identify whether predatory fishes were a source of embryo mortality. Spawning success (number of eggs laid), embryo mortality (proportion of embryos that died prior to hatching) and number of embryos hatching were estimated from daily maps of clutches laid on artificial surfaces (PVC tiles) defended by nesting males. Patterns of variation in eggs laid, embryo mortality and numbers of embryos hatched were examined at three spatial scales: (1) among widely-spaced locations around the island; (2) between adjacent reef slope and patch reef habitats occupied by P. amboinensis at a single location; and (3) among different males within these two habitats. The embryo mortality was extremely high, with a mean of 25.9pm ± 6.2% (S.E.) for 4 locations examined in 1994 and a mean of 69.2pm ± 2.9% for two habitats surveyed in 1995. There were no significant differences in embryo mortality among locations or habitats in either year. This meant that spatial patterns in the number of embryos hatching reflected differences in the number of eggs laid on tiles. Embryo mortality was extremely variable on the scale of individual territories, with embryo mortality commonly ranging from 0% to 100%. Much of the mortality could be attributed to diurnal predatory fishes, especially the wrasse Thalassoma lunare. However, variation in predator densities did not explain spatial patterns in embryo mortality rates. Both solitary and group predatory behaviour was observed, with groups often causing 100% embryo mortality. The level of embryo mortality observed suggests that predation prior to hatching may have a substantial effect on the reproductive output of populations of this demersal-nesting fish.

Item ID: 13193
Item Type: Article (Refereed Research - C1)
Keywords: damselfish; demersal nest; embryo mortality; Great Barrier Reef; Pomacentridae; Pomacentrus; predation pressure; spawning success
ISSN: 1573-5133
Date Deposited: 26 Jul 2012 07:10
FoR Codes: 06 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 0602 Ecology > 060205 Marine and Estuarine Ecology (incl Marine Ichthyology) @ 100%
SEO Codes: 96 ENVIRONMENT > 9608 Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity > 960802 Coastal and Estuarine Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity @ 100%
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