Orientation behavior in fish larvae: a missing piece to Hjort’s critical period hypothesis:

——   The first project that I conducted for my PhD research was a modeling study. I developed a module to direct oriented swimming behavior in fish larvae, to use in conjunction with the Connectivity Modeling System, which is an individual-based biophysical model. We used a biased correlated random walk equation to generate larval orientation towards targets (reef habitats), but the movement of individual larvae was driven by a combination of oceanographic currents and this orientation behavior. We found that larvae that oriented early in their pelagic phase were far more likely to find a reef than those that oriented late or did not orient at all. In addition, the larger the size of their “detection distance,” the better chance that larvae would find the reef. This study demonstrates that even with slow swimming speeds, larvae that can detect and navigate towards reefs have a much higher chance of survival. Therefore, using empirical research to discern these detection distances is critical to understand the settlement patterns of reef fish.

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