TitleComparative predation rates on larval snappers (Lutjanidae) in oceanic, reef, and nearshore waters
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2011
AuthorsD'Alessandro, EK, Sponaugle, S
JournalJournal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology
Type of ArticleJournal Article

The life cycle of most reef fishes involves pelagic larvae entering the nearshore environment to settle to benthic substrates. Settlement is considered to be highly risky as larvae encounter high rates of predation mortality associated with shallow nearshore habitats. This potential bottleneck may be particularly significant for many tropical snapper (Lutjanidae) species which bypass the reef to settle to very nearshore seagrass areas. To test the hypothesis that predation-related mortality increases as naive late-stage fish larvae leave the offshore oceanic environment and enter the nearshore to settle, relative nocturnal predation rates on tethered late-stage snapper larvae were measured in oceanic, coral reef, and nearshore surface waters of the lower Florida Keys, USA. Both relative predation rate and probability of predation in oceanic areas seaward of the reef was significantly greater than over reef or nearshore seagrass/hardbottom habitats. This surprising result may be due to differences in the density or spatial distribution of potential predators between deep offshore (near flotsam at the surface) and shallow nearshore environments (demersal). These findings suggest that successful late-stage snapper larvae should avoid surface waters in deep oceanic areas and move upward in the water column as they pass over the reef and other shallow nearshore environments prior to settlement. (C) 2011 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

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