Successful settlement of pelagic fish larvae into benthic juvenile habitats may be enhanced by a shortened settlement period, since it limits larval exposure to predation in the new habitat. Because the spatial distribution of marine fish larvae immediately prior to settlement versus during settlement was unknown, field experiments were conducted at Ishigaki Island (Japan) using light trap sampling and underwater visual belt transect surveys to investigate the spatial distribution patterns of selected pre- and post-settlement fishes (Acanthuridae, Pomacentridae, Chaetodonidae and Lethrinidae) among four habitats (seagrass bed, coral rubble, branching coral and tabular coral). The results highlighted two patterns: patterns 1, pre- and post-settlement individuals showing a ubiquitous distribution among the four habitats (Acanthuridae) and pattern 2, pre-settlement individuals distributed in all habitats, but post-settlement individuals restricted to coral (most species of Pomacentridae and Chaetodontidae) or seagrass habitats (Lethrinidae). The first pattern minimizes the transition time between the larval pelagic stage and acquisition of a benthic reef habitat, the latter leading immediately to a juvenile lifestyle. In contrast, the second pattern is characterized by high settlement habitat selectivity by larvae and/or differential mortality immediately after settlement.
Spatial Distribution Pattern Coral Reef Fish Coral Rubble Great Species Richness Total Length
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We are grateful to Y. Takada, O. Abe, M. Kobayashi and the Seikai National Fisheries Research Institute for assistance in the fieldwork. Constructive comments on the manuscript from G. Hardy and anonymous reviewers were much appreciated. This study was supported by a Research Fellowship of the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science for Young Scientists (No. 18·10371) awarded to Y. Nakamura.
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