MEPS 394:223-229 (2009)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/meps08298

Spatially variable larval histories may shape recruitment rates of a temperate reef fish

Jeffrey S. Shima1,*, Stephen E. Swearer2

1School of Biological Sciences and Coastal Ecology Lab, Victoria University of Wellington, PO Box 600, Wellington, New Zealand
2Department of Zoology, University of Melbourne, Victoria 3010, Australia

ABSTRACT: Several long-standing hypotheses purport variation in recruitment to be positively correlated with pelagic environmental conditions that enhance larval growth, survival, and/or delivery to recruitment sites. However, the relationship between recruitment intensity and larval environmental conditions (or more directly, larval condition) is difficult to evaluate and poorly known for most species. We evaluate this relationship for the reef fish Forsterygion lapillum that commonly inhabits rocky reefs throughout New Zealand. We quantified variation in recruitment of F. lapillum using a nested sampling design, and found that the largest source of variation was between 2 nearby regions (a semi-enclosed harbour and an adjacent open coast system). We estimated ‘settler condition’ as the composite of residual body mass and 2 measurements of larval growth (reconstructed from otolith microstructure) and found that recruitment intensity was positively correlated with settler condition for sites within the harbour, but negatively correlated with settler condition for sites on the open coast. Mean pelagic larval duration of recruits to the harbour was ~3 d shorter than recruits to the open coast. These results suggest that larval experience and relationships between recruitment and settler condition are spatially variable. We speculate that (1) larval retention within a productive embayment facilitates a positive relationship between recruitment and settler condition while (2) dispersal through a less productive environment drives a negative relationship for replenishment on the open coast. These putative differences may have important implications for patterns of recruitment, the strength of post-settlement density-dependent interactions, and dynamics of local populations.


KEY WORDS: Recruitment variability · Settler condition · Larval history · Dispersal · Connectivity · Match-mismatch hypothesis · Ocean-stability hypothesis · Member-vagrant hypothesis · Reef fish


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Cite this article as: Shima JS, Swearer SE (2009) Spatially variable larval histories may shape recruitment rates of a temperate reef fish. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 394:223-229. https://doi.org/10.3354/meps08298

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