Simple larvae sustain the world's smallest marine vertebrates

Goatley, Christopher H.R., Brandl, Simon J., Wroe, Stephen, and Bellwood, David R. (2020) Simple larvae sustain the world's smallest marine vertebrates. Coral Reefs, 40. pp. 75-82.

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Cryptobenthic reef fishes (small, camouflaged, benthic-dwelling fishes) face exceptionally high mortality rates, yet they are the most abundant fishes on coral reefs. To maintain local adult populations in the face of these mortality rates, larval cryptobenthics may have adaptations that limit dispersal. However, the basis for this larval retention is unknown. Here, we compared the body shapes of adult and larval cryptobenthics with those of adult and larval large reef fishes to explore how morphological adaptations may enable cryptobenthic larvae to stay near their natal reefs. We found that while adults and larvae of large reef fishes and adult cryptobenthics display different 'average' morphological characteristics (i.e. different locations of the morphospace centroid), they all display a similar range of body shapes (i.e. similar morphospace sizes around their centroids). Larval cryptobenthics, however, exhibit a greatly constrained range of morphologies (occupying less than 20% of the morphospace of any other category). Larval cryptobenthics appear to be limited to a simple body plan, with elongate bodies and small fins. This simple body shape is likely to result in relatively poor swimming abilities, which may limit the ability of cryptobenthic larvae to maintain their position against prevailing currents in the pelagic zone. As such, limited dispersal in cryptobenthic larvae is likely to depend upon behavioural adaptations, such as flow-refuging, to avoid being washed away from their natal reefs.

Item ID: 66200
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1432-0975
Keywords: Coral reef, Cryptobenthic fish, Morphology, Larval ecology, Flow-refuging
Copyright Information: © Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2020.
Funders: University of New England (UNE), Australian Research Council (ARC)
Projects and Grants: UNE Postdoctoral Research Fellowship, ARC FL190100062
Date Deposited: 25 Nov 2020 08:22
FoR Codes: 31 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 3104 Evolutionary biology > 310403 Biological adaptation @ 50%
31 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 3103 Ecology > 310305 Marine and estuarine ecology (incl. marine ichthyology) @ 50%
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