Sun compass orientation helps coral reef fish larvae return to their natal reef

Mouritsen, Henrik, Atema, Jelle, Kingsford, Michael J., and Gerlach, Gabriele (2013) Sun compass orientation helps coral reef fish larvae return to their natal reef. PLoS ONE, 8 (6). e66039. pp. 1-16.

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Abstract

Reef fish sustain populations on isolated reefs and show genetic diversity between nearby reefs even though larvae of many species are swept away from the natal site during pelagic dispersal. Retention or recruitment to natal reefs requires orientation capabilities that enable larvae to find their way. Although olfactory and acoustically based orientation has been implicated in homing when larvae are in the reef's vicinity, it is still unclear how they cope with greater distances. Here we show evidence for a sun compass mechanism that can bring the larvae to the vicinity of their natal reef. In a circular arena, pre-settlement larvae and early settlers (<24 hours) of the cardinal fish, Ostorhinchus doederleini, showed a strong SSE directional swimming response, which most likely has evolved to compensate for the locally prevailing large scale NNW current drift. When fish were clock-shifted 6 hours, they changed their orientation by ca. 180° as predicted by the tropical sun curve at One Tree Island, i.e. they used a time-compensated sun compass. Furthermore, the fish oriented most consistently at times of the day when the sun azimuth is easy to determine. Microsatellite markers showed that the larvae that had just arrived at One Tree Island genetically belonged to either the local reef population or to Fitzroy Reef located 12 kilometers to the SSE. The use of a sun compass adds a missing long-distance link to the hierarchy of other sensory abilities that can direct larvae to the region of origin, including their natal reef. Predominant local recruitment, in turn, can contribute to genetic isolation and potential speciation.

Item ID: 29048
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1932-6203
Additional Information:

© 2013 Mouritsen et al. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

Funders: Volkswagen Stiftung, Australian Research Council (ARC), ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies
Projects and Grants: Volkswagen Stiftung Lichtenberg professorship, DFG Ge842/6-1
Date Deposited: 28 Aug 2013 05:28
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 > 960808 Marine Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity @ 100%
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