Reef fish recruitment to coral reef versus mangrove and seagrass habitats in Bonaire, Netherlands Antilles

Recent studies show that late stage pelagic larval fish are not simply drifting with the currents as formerly believed, but are in some cases strong swimmers and more than capable of swimming against the ambient flow. There is evidence that larval fish may select specific habitats in which to settle. Although little is understood about their sensory abilities, both sound and smell have been linked to settlement of coral reef larvae (Leis 1997). On Bonaire, Netherlands Antilles, coral reefs, mangrove forests, and seagrass beds provide refuge and food for young fish. Some fish species are thought to spend the juvenile life stages in mangroves and seagrasses and abundances of certain adult reef fish species have been shown to be greater in coral reefs with surrounding seagrasses and mangroves (Mumby 2004). Larval fish may be able to select environments for settlement based on biological attractions detected by certain senses (Lecchini 2005). This study investigates the potential differences in the larval fish recruiting to mangrove and seagrass habitats with larval fish recruiting to coral reef habitats. Samples of larval fish were taken on the three nights surrounding the November new moon. Light traps and dip nets were used at two different sites, one a mangrove/seagrass habitat, and the other a coral reef habitat. Larger numbers of larval fish and more families were represented in the samples taken in the coral reef habitat than the mangrove/seagrass habitat.

This student research was retrieved from Physis: Journal of Marine Science II (Fall 2007)19: 32-36 from CIEE Bonaire.

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