Coral reef fish smell leaves to find island homes

Dixson, Danielle L. , Jones, Geoffrey P., Munday, Philip L., Planes, Serge, Pratchett, Morgan S., Srinivasan, Maya, Syms, Craig, and Thorrold, Simon R. (2008) Coral reef fish smell leaves to find island homes. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London Series B, Biological Sciences, 275. pp. 2831-2839.

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Recent studies have shown that some coral reef fish larvae return to natal reefs, while others disperse to distant reefs. However, the sensory mechanisms used to find settlement sites are poorly understood. One hypothesis is that larvae use olfactory cues to navigate home or find other suitable reef habitats. Here we show a strong association between the clownfish Amphiprion percula and coral reefs surrounding offshore islands in Papua New Guinea. Host anemones and A. percula are particularly abundant in shallow water beneath overhanging rainforest vegetation. A series of experiments were carried out using paired-choice flumes to evaluate the potential role of water-borne olfactory cues in finding islands. Recently settled A. percula exhibited strong preferences for: (i) water from reefs with islands over water from reefs without islands; (ii) water collected near islands over water collected offshore; and (iii) water treated with either anemones or leaves from rainforest vegetation. Laboratory reared-juveniles exhibited the same positive response to anemones and rainforest vegetation, suggesting that olfactory preferences are innate rather than learned. We hypothesize that A. percula use a suite of olfactory stimuli to locate vegetated islands, which may explain the high levels of self-recruitment on island reefs. This previously unrecognized link between coral reefs and island vegetation argues for the integrated management of these pristine tropical habitats.

Item ID: 4875
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1471-2954
Keywords: Amphiprion percula; chemical ecology; clownfish; coral reef ecology; dispersal; habitat selection
Date Deposited: 03 Aug 2009 02:54
FoR Codes: 06 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 0602 Ecology > 060205 Marine and Estuarine Ecology (incl Marine Ichthyology) @ 60%
05 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES > 0502 Environmental Science and Management > 050202 Conservation and Biodiversity @ 20%
06 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 0602 Ecology > 060201 Behavioural Ecology @ 20%
SEO Codes: 97 EXPANDING KNOWLEDGE > 970106 Expanding Knowledge in the Biological Sciences @ 100%
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