Swimming behaviour can maintain localised jellyfish (Chironex fleckeri: Cubozoa) populations

Schlaefer, Jodie A., Wolanski, Eric, and Kingsford, Michael J. (2018) Swimming behaviour can maintain localised jellyfish (Chironex fleckeri: Cubozoa) populations. Marine Ecology Progress Series, 591. pp. 287-302.

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The potentially lethal Chironex fleckeri (Class Cubozoa) inhabits estuarine and nearshore coastal waters in the western Pacific. The spatial scales of connectivity between C. fleckeri populations are poorly understood. Biophysical modelling of Port Musgrave, a 17 × 21 km shallow bay in tropical Australia, was used to investigate the potential for connections between populations separated by medium (10s of km) to small (100s of m) spatial scales. We measured the swimming speeds and orientations of medusae ranging in size from 4 to 12 cm interpedalial distance (the distance between two adjacent corners on the bell of the medusae). Medusae swam longshore at average speeds (5.3 ± 3.5 cm s-1 SD) that exceeded the local average current speeds (2.7 ± 2.4 cm s-1). These and other ecological data were used to parameterise the biophysical model. No medusae modelled as passive were advected from the bay in 14 d; <2.5% of swimming medusae were lost. When medusae swam directionally, a high percentage aggregated in shallow waters within 10s to 100s of m of the seeding locations. Newly metamorphosed medusae are likely to be retained in the bay through a combination of ‘sticky water’ (i.e. water with reduced current speeds, reduced through diversion around obstacles) in shallow complex habitats and favourable currents. C. fleckeri are vulnerable to low salinities; however, modelling a strong flood revealed higher salinity refugia in shallow water. As there was high retention within the system, we conclude that populations of C. fleckeri inhabiting shallow, semi-enclosed estuarine bays probably represent stocks. Within these stocks, swimming and favourable currents may minimise connectivity and maintain populations at multiple spatial scales.

Item ID: 51375
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1616-1599
Keywords: cubozoa; population dynamics; connectivity; biophysical model; behaviour
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A version of this publication was included as Chapter 2 of the following PhD thesis: Schlaefer, Jodie Anne (2020) Determining the population structures of cubozoan jellyfishes with biophysical modelling. PhD thesis, James Cook University, which is available Open Access in ResearchOnline@JCU. Please see the Related URLs for access.

Funders: Australian Research Council (ARC) Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, Australian Lions Foundation
Date Deposited: 31 Oct 2017 03:03
FoR Codes: 37 EARTH SCIENCES > 3707 Hydrology > 370704 Surface water hydrology @ 100%
SEO Codes: 91 ECONOMIC FRAMEWORK > 9199 Other Economic Framework > 919902 Ecological Economics @ 100%
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