MEPS 202:163-173 (2000)  -  doi:10.3354/meps202163

Development of swimming abilities in reef fish larvae

Rebecca Fisher*, David R. Bellwood, Suresh D. Job

Department of Marine Biology, James Cook University, Townsville, Queensland 4811, Australia

ABSTRACT: Recent studies have revealed that reef fish larvae have excellent sustained swimming capabilities and considerable potential for modifying their dispersal patterns by active swimming. However, these studies concentrate solely on the late pelagic phase. We examined the development of swimming abilities from hatching through to settlement in 3 reef fish species (Pomacentrus amboinensis, Sphaeramia nematoptera, Amphiprion melanopus). Larval rearing provided larvae at all stages of development. Experiments were conducted in flow chambers designed for measuring the critical and sustained swimming capability of young larvae. In all 3 species, critical swimming ability increased steadily with age, size, relative propulsive area and developmental stage of the larvae. In contrast, sustained swimming ability showed a marked inflection during development. Differences among species throughout development appear to reflect variations in the developmental patterns of the 3 species. Propulsive area was highly correlated with swimming ability and may prove useful for estimating swimming capabilities among species. The results suggest that some species have the potential to actively modify their dispersal patterns from an early age.

KEY WORDS: Larvae · Swimming · Dispersal · Coral reef fish · Development · Morphology

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