The predation gauntlet: early post-settlement mortality in reef fishes
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Most marine fishes have pelagic larvae that settle to benthic juvenile/adult habitats. Ecologists have argued that mortality rates are particularly high during the settlement transition, but relevant data have been sparse. Recently, researchers have used several novel techniques to estimate the magnitude of predation mortality during the settlement transition. We used meta-analysis to determine that for 24 taxonomically diverse species in geographically widespread locations, an estimated 55.7% (CI: 43.0–65.5%) of juveniles were consumed within 1–2 days of settlement. Such high mortality highlights this brief period as a key phase in the life history of fishes and supports the view that these communities are strongly influenced by predation. Additionally, we argue that because predators have such strong effects on juvenile survival, the population and community dynamics of reef fishes may be linked to human exploitation of reef predators.
KeywordsMeta-analysis Predation Recruitment Reef fish Settlement
We thank Tess Freidenburg, Mark Hixon, Jeff Leis, and Karen Overholtzer-McLeod for discussion of these topics and manuscript reviews. For allowing us access to their data, we thank Peter Doherty, Vincent Dufour, Graham Forrester, Rene Galzin, Mark Hixon, Gilles Lecaillon, Serge Planes and Mark Steele. Financial support was provided by NSF Graduate Doctoral Fellowships (GRA and MSW), an NSF International Research Fellowship and Fulbright Postgraduate Award (GRA), and the David and Lucile Packard Foundation (MSW).
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