Coral Reefs

, Volume 25, Issue 1, pp 73–76 | Cite as

Fluorescence census techniques for the early detection of coral recruits

  • A.H. BairdEmail author
  • A. Salih
  • A. Trevor-Jones


Many coral recruits are very small and often cryptic at settlement making them difficult to detect with normal census techniques. Here we show that fluorescence census techniques can increase the accuracy of juvenile coral counts in highly fluorescent taxa. Using fluorescent filters at night, counts of coral recruits were 20–50% higher than during the day. Acropora abundances were up to 300% higher, the difference being made up of cryptic individuals, and individuals that were too small to see during the day. Fluorescence techniques will be particularly useful in regions where fluorescent taxa are dominant, such as most Indo-Pacific reefs. The technique offers particular promise to determine the influence of early post-settlement mortality on the ecology of fluorescent taxa, because corals can be detected at the size at which they settle.


Coral reefs Acropora Fluorescence Recruitment Settlement Mortality 



This work was supported by ARC Fellowships to A. Baird and A. Salih and Undersea Explorer (UE). We thank UE crew and sponsors (Carl Zeiss Pty Ltd. & Varian) of the Coral Light and Life Workshop, and C. Mazel for comments on the manuscript.


  1. Babcock RC (1985) Growth and mortality in juvenile corals Goniastrea, Platygyra and Acropora in the first year. Proc fifth Int Coral Reef Congr 4:355–360Google Scholar
  2. Babcock RC, Baird AH, Piromvaragorn S, Thomson DP, Willis BL (2003) Identification of scleractinian coral recruits from Indo-Pacific reefs. Zool Stud 42:211–226Google Scholar
  3. Baird AH, Babcock RC (2000) Morphological differences among three species of newly settled pocilloporid coral recruits. Coral Reefs 19:179–183CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Baird AH, Babcock RC, Mundy CP (2003) Habitat selection by larvae influences the depth distribution of six common coral species. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 252:289–293CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Chiappone M, Sullivan K (1996) Distribution, abundance and species composition of juvenile scleractinian corals in the Florida Reef Tract. Bull Mar Sci 58:555–569Google Scholar
  6. Dove SG, Hoegh-Guldberg O, Ranganathan S (2001) Major colour patterns of reef-building corals are due to a family of GFP-like proteins. Coral Reefs 19:197–204CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Edmunds PJ, Aronson RB, Swanson DW, Levitan DR, Precht WF (1998) Photographic versus visual census techniques for the quantification of juvenile corals. Bull Mar Sci 62:937–946Google Scholar
  8. Hughes TP, Baird AH, Dinsdale EA, Moltschaniwskyj NA, Pratchett MS, Tanner JE, Willis BL (1999) Patterns of recruitment and abundance of corals along the Great Barrier Reef. Nature 397:59–63CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Keough MJ, Downes BJ (1982) Recruitment of marine invertebrates: the role of active larval choices and early mortality. Oecologia 54:348–352CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Mazel CH (1995) Spectral measurements of fluorescence emission in Caribbean cnidarians. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 120:185–191CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Mumby PJ (1999) Bleaching and hurricane disturbances to populations of coral recruits in Belize. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 190:27–35CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Papina M, Sakihama Y, Bena C, van Woesik R, Yamasaki H (2002) Separation of highly fluorescent proteins by SDS-PAGE in Acroporidae corals. Comp Biochem Physiol B-Biochem Mol Biol 131:767–774PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Piniak GA, Fogarty ND, Addison CM, Kenworthy WJ (2005) Fluorescence census techniques for coral recruits. Coral Reefs DOI:10.1007/s00338-00005-00495-00331Google Scholar
  14. Rylaarsdam KW (1983) Life history and abundance of colonial corals on Jamaican reefs. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 13:249–260CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Salih A, Hoegh-Guldberg O, Cox G (1998) Photoprotection of symbiotic dinoflagellates by fluorescent pigments in reef corals. In: Greenwood JG, Hall NJ (eds) Australian coral reef society 75th anniversary conference. The University of Queensland, Brisbane, pp 217–230Google Scholar
  16. Salih A, Larkum A, Cox G, Kuehl M, Hoegh-Guldberg O (2000) Fluorescent pigments in corals are photoprotective. Nature 408:850–853PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Sammarco PW (1985) The great barrier reef vs. the Caribbean: comparisons of grazers, coral recruitment patterns and reef recovery. Proc fifth Int Coral Reef Congr 4:391–398Google Scholar
  18. Szmant AM (1986) Reproductive ecology of Caribbean reef corals. Coral Reefs 5:43–54CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Van Moorsel GWMN (1983) Reproductive strategies in two closely related stony corals (Agaricia, Scleractinia). Mar Ecol Prog Ser 13:273–283CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Wallace CC, Bull GD (1981) Patterns of juvenile coral recruitment on a reef front during a spring-summer spawning period. Proc fourth Int Coral Reef Symp 2:345–350Google Scholar
  21. Wallace CC, Watt A, Bull GD (1986) Recruitment of juvenile corals onto coral tables preyed upon by Acanthaster planci. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 32:299–306CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centre for Coral Reef Biodiversity, School of Marine Biology and AquacultureJames Cook UniversityTownsvilleAustralia
  2. 2.The Australian Key Centre for Microscopy and MicroanalysisThe University of SydneySydneyAustralia
  3. 3.GlenbrookAustralia

Personalised recommendations