Taking over the oceans: Adult fish characteristics predict a species' dispersal

September 24, 2013
Credit: J. P. Krajewski

As fish disperse to find new habitats, scientists have developed a new model to judge a species' success in colonising new places. The study has shown some surprising results, suggesting that success can best be determined in the traits of adult individuals, and not in a species' larval stages, as previously thought.

"The more places a tropical species lives," says lead author Osmar Luiz, "the less it is endangered to . It is important, then, to identify exactly which features of a species can best determine the scope of their distribution across the oceans, so we can more accurately predict and identify endangered species."

Marine organisms disperse mostly by as . Until now, it has been thought that species with longer larval periods can disperse further, and achieve larger across the oceans – thus having a lower chance of extinction.

However, Luiz and team found that, instead of this larval stage, there are some specific adult characteristics of species that can better predict distribution size among these species. He points to the colonization success, of when new populations build up in a new area, as a better determinant of ongoing species safety.

"Our study warns that predictions of species dispersal potential based on the variability in they larval stage are misleading, and we indicate three other adult characteristics that relates to dispersal ability and should be used in such analysis."

"Very counter intuitively, these characteristics manifest while fishes are adults, so we were until now looking into the wrong life-stage," says Luiz.

These characteristics are schooling, nocturnal activity, and large size. These three characteristics emerged across different oceans despite interregional differences in habitat geography.

The comprehensive study used the largest dataset in analysis of this type, collecting data for 590 species, across three different oceans. Luiz and his supervisor Joshua Madin have been exploring the dispersal patterns of tropical fish for some time, both globally and in Australia, through the SIMS facilities in Chowder Bay, Sydney.

Explore further: New study on tropical fish dispersal

More information: Luiza, O. et al. Adult and larval traits as determinants of geographic range size among tropical reef fishes, PNAS. www.pnas.org/cgi/doi/10.1073/pnas.1304074110

Related Stories

New study on tropical fish dispersal

September 14, 2011

Research published today in Proceedings of the Royal Society: B identifies success factors for tropical fish looking to establish new populations in the face of climate change.

Putting larval cobia to the acid test

April 2, 2013

Ocean acidification, which occurs as CO2 is absorbed by the world's oceans, is a source of concern for marine scientists worldwide. Studies on coral, mollusks, and other ocean denizens are helping to paint a picture of what ...

Tropical vagrants bigger, stronger survivors

June 12, 2013

(Phys.org) —Sydney marine researchers are one step further in solving the mystery of how tropical fishes, in response to rising sea temperatures and the impact of climate change, are shifting, and potentially surviving ...

Lionfish found following the current trend

June 28, 2013

In findings published today in the Marine Ecology Progress Series, researchers have found that ocean currents may explain why the Indo-Pacific lionfish Pterois volitans living in the Atlantic is yet to make its way to Brazil.

Recommended for you

A novel toxin for M. tuberculosis

August 4, 2015

Despite 132 years of study, no toxin had ever been found for the deadly pathogen Mycobacterium tuberculosis, which infects 9 million people a year and kills more than 1 million.

New biosensors for managing microbial 'workers'

August 4, 2015

Super productive factories of the future could employ fleets of genetically engineered bacterial cells, such as common E. coli, to produce valuable chemical commodities in an environmentally friendly way. By leveraging their ...

Fish that have their own fish finders

August 4, 2015

The more than 200 species in the family Mormyridae communicate with one another in a way completely alien to our species: by means of electric discharges generated by an organ in their tails.

Volcanic bacteria take minimalist approach to survival

August 4, 2015

New research by scientists at the University of Otago and GNS Science is helping to solve the puzzle of how bacteria are able to live in nutrient-starved environments. It is well-established that the majority of bacteria ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.