MEPS 325:195-203 (2006)  -  doi:10.3354/meps325195

Large-scale dispersal of the larvae of nearshore and pelagic fishes in the tropical oceanic waters of French Polynesia

A. Lo-Yat1,2, M. G. Meekan2,*, J. H. Carleton3, R. Galzin1

1Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes, UMR 8046 Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, Laboratoire d’Ichtyoécologie Tropicale et Méditerranéenne, Université de Perpignan, 6680 Perpignan CEDEX, France
2Australian Institute of Marine Science, PO Box 40197, Casuarina MC, Northern Territory 0811, Australia
3Australian Institute of Marine Science, PMB 3, Townsville MC, Queensland 4810, Australia
*Corresponding author. Email:

ABSTRACT: The larvae of tropical pelagic and reef fishes were sampled from October 1995 to August 1997 using a very large fry pelagic trawl at sites between 4 and 20°S and 134 and 154°W in the region of the Society, Tuamotu and Marquesas Archipelagos in French Polynesia. Sites were selected on the basis of longline catches of adult tuna (a predator of larval reef fishes) and acoustic surveys of micronekton to a depth of 600 m. A total of 3369 larvae were collected by 93 net tows. Most were late-stage larvae representing 29 taxa, of which 26 were predominantly reef fishes. Samples were dominated by acanthurids (43%), pleuronectiform larvae, ostraciids, fistularids, balistids, holocentrids, chaetodontids, mullids and carangids. Distance to reefs was the principal factor determining clustering patterns in classification and ordination analyses, and offshore samples (>150 km from reefs) were dominated by pelagic species, while collections nearer to reefs were dominated by coral reef species. There was a linear decline in richness of samples with increasing distance from reefs and an exponential decline in abundance, so that few reef fish larvae were collected >300 km from adult reef habitats. However, abundances of up to hundreds of reef fish larvae per hour of net tow were collected >100 km from the nearest reef. Our results show that relatively little connectivity is likely among reef systems separated by >300 km in French Polynesia, but substantial exchange of larvae within a restricted range of reef fish taxa might occur at smaller spatial scales.

KEY WORDS: Dispersal · Coral reef · Fish larvae · Plankton net · Connectivity · Reef fish

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