MEPS - Vol. 335 - Feature article

Laser-illuminated slice through a dye cloud (analogue for odor) released from corals into wave-driven water flow above a reef; inset: larva of Phestilla sibogae. Photos: Matthew Reidenbach & Jeffrey Koseff (laser image), Michael Hadfield (inset)

Koehl MAR, Strother JA, Reidenbach MA, Koseff JR, Hadfield MG


Individual-based model of larval transport to coral reefs in turbulent, wave-driven flow: behavioral responses to dissolved settlement inducer


Like many bottom-dwelling marine animals, the coral-eating sea slug Phestilla sibogae produces microscopic larvae that are carried away by ocean currents. Where marine larvae settle and survive on the sea bottom affects the biodiversity of marine communities. How do tiny larvae, swirling around in turbulent, wave-driven flow, land in suitable habitats? Phestilla larvae sink when they encounter the aroma of their prey coral, Porites, and resume swimming in odor-free water. Laser experiments revealed that, on the scale of a larva, the cloud of odor above a coral reef is composed of fine aroma filaments. The simple off/on response to brief encounters with odor filaments enhances the probability of the larvae being carried by turbulent flow into a reef inhabited by their prey coral.


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