Selective predation for low body condition at the larval-juvenile transition of a coral reef fish
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- Hoey, A.S. & McCormick, M.I. Oecologia (2004) 139: 23. doi:10.1007/s00442-004-1489-3
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Mortality is known to be high during the transition from larval to juvenile life stages in organisms that have complex life histories. We are only just beginning to understand the processes that influence which individuals survive this period of high mortality, and which traits may be beneficial. Here we document a field experiment that examines the selectivity of predation immediately following settlement to the juvenile population in a common tropical fish, Pomacentrus amboinensis (Pomacentridae). Newly metamorphosed fish were tagged and randomly placed onto replicated patches of natural habitat cleared of resident fishes. After exposure to transient predators for 3 days, fish were recollected and the attributes of survivors from patch reefs that sustained high mortality were compared to individuals from patch reefs that experienced low mortality. Seven characteristics of individuals, which were indicative of previous and present body condition, were compared between groups. Predation was found to be selective for fish that grew slowly in the latter third of their larval phase, were low in total lipids, and had a high standardized weight (Fulton’s K). Traits developed in the larval phase can strongly influence the survival of individuals over this critical transition period for organisms with complex life cycles.