Environmental Biology of Fishes

, Volume 3, Issue 1, pp 65–84 | Cite as

Reproductive strategies of coastal marine fishes in the tropics

  • Robert E. Johannes


A synthesis of ethnobiological, behavioral and physical oceanographic information leads to the conclusion that temperate zone models of reproductive strategy are inapplicable to many fishes of the coastal tropics. Intense predation appears to exert heavy selection pressure on fishes that spend their adult lives in coral, mangrove or tropical seagrass communities. Many exhibit spawning behaviors and spawn at times and locations that favor the transport of their pelagic eggs and pelagic larvae offshore where predation is reduced. This creates a countervailing selection pressure — the need to return the larvae to shallow water once they are ready to colonize their post-larval habitats. Accordingly, spawning is often concentrated at times of the year when prevailing winds or currents are at their weakest, thereby reducing the transport of larvae long distances from where they originated. Spawning is also concentrated in the vicinity of nearshore gyres which similarly favor the ultimate return of the larvae to their natal area. Among these species, therefore, offshore larval dispersal does not seem to be an adaptation for dispersal of the species, but rather an evolutionary response to intense predation pressure in the adult habitats. Lunar reproductive periodicity is more common among these species than has previously been recognized, and is one of the strategies employed to enhance the offshore flushing of eggs and larvae.


Coral reef fishes Spawning Lunar periodicity Predation Seagrass beds Fish larvae Mangrove Dispersal Migration 


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Copyright information

© Dr. W. Junk Publishers 1978

Authors and Affiliations

  • Robert E. Johannes
    • 1
  1. 1.Hawaii Institute of Marine BiologyKaneoheU.S.A.

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