Environmental Biology of Fishes

, Volume 4, Issue 1, pp 9–22

The influence of light on the twilight migrations of grunts

  • William N. McFarland
  • John C. Ogden
  • John N. Lythgoe

DOI: 10.1007/BF00005923

Cite this article as:
McFarland, W.N., Ogden, J.C. & Lythgoe, J.N. Environ Biol Fish (1979) 4: 9. doi:10.1007/BF00005923


Behaviors that precede the daily migrations of mixed-species schools of juvenile grunts (Pomadasyidae), from patch reefs to grass beds at dusk and vice versa at dawn, are defined and utilized to ascertain the precision of the migrations. Although premigratory behaviors differ at dusk and dawn, the migrations are precise twilight events which occur at the same light intensities during dawn and dusk. Histological sections of the retina reveal that both cones and rods are fully exposed to ambient light during the migrations. Under the difficult photic conditions that prevail during migration, the retina is structured photomechanically to maximize the absorption of ambient light. Body colorations of the grunts, which consist mostly of intense colored stripes during the day, are replaced at night by cryptic melanic patterns. The precision of migration, the photomechanical movements in the retina, and the changes in body coloration are considered adaptive because they reduce predation on grunts when they migrate and are most vulnerable to attack. In support of this conclusion, the migrations take place just before the evening and just after the morning ‘quiet period’ - thus they avoid that period during twilight when predation is highest in tropical fish communities.


Fish migrationBehavioral precisionBehavior reversalSchoolingPredationRetinal photomechanical movementsBody color patternsQuiet period

Copyright information

© Dr. W. Junk b.v. Publishers 1979

Authors and Affiliations

  • William N. McFarland
    • 1
  • John C. Ogden
    • 2
  • John N. Lythgoe
    • 3
  1. 1.Section of Ecology and SystematicsCornell UniversityIthacaU.S.A.
  2. 2.West Indies LaboratoryFairleigh Dickinson UniversityU.S. Virgin IslandsU.S.A.
  3. 3.Department of ZoologyUniversity of BristolBristolU.K.