Juvenile coral reef fish use sound to locate habitats

Abstract

There is limited knowledge of the orientation cues used by reef fish in their movement among different habitats, especially those cues used during darkness. Although acoustic cues have been found to be important for settlement-stage fish as they seek settlement habitats, only a small number of studies support the possible role of acoustic cues in the orientation of post-settled and adult reef fish. Therefore, the aim of this study was to determine whether habitat-specific acoustic cues were involved in the nocturnal movements of juvenile reef fish to small experimental patch reefs that were broadcasting sound previously recorded from different habitats (Fringing Reef, Lagoon, Silent). Juvenile fish arriving at each patch reef were caught the next morning by divers and were identified. There were a greater number of occasions when juvenile fish (from all species together) moved onto the patch reefs broadcasting Fringing Reef and Lagoon sound (43 and 38%, respectively) compared to Silent reefs (19%) (χ2 = 33.5; P < 0.05). There were significantly more occasions when juvenile fish from the family Nemipteridae were attracted to the patch reefs broadcasting Lagoon sound (63%) versus those reefs broadcasting either Fringing Reef sound (31%) or Silent (6%). In contrast, there were more occasions when juveniles from the family Pomacentridae were attracted to the patch reefs broadcasting Fringing Reef sound (56%) than either Lagoon (24%) or Silent patch reefs (20%) (χ2 = 19.5; P < 0.05). These results indicate that some juvenile fish use specific habitat sounds to guide their nocturnal movements. Therefore, the fish are able to not only use the directional information contained in acoustic cues, but can also interpret the content of the acoustic signals for relevant habitat information which is then used in their decision-making for orientation.

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Acknowledgments

We are grateful to the staff at the Lizard Island Research station for their kind support with logistics. M. McCormick and M. Meekan kindly assisted with fish identification. This work was supported by a Senior Scientist Award (to AGJ) from the Charles Fleming Fund of the Royal Society of New Zealand and the Glenn Family Foundation, and SDS is funded by the Natural Environment Research Council, UK. This research was conducted under permit #102676 issued by the Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries, Queensland, and permit #G08/28654.1 issued by the Great Barrier Marine Park Authority.

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Correspondence to A. G. Jeffs.

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Communicated by Biology Editor Prof. Philip Munday

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Radford, C.A., Stanley, J.A., Simpson, S.D. et al. Juvenile coral reef fish use sound to locate habitats. Coral Reefs 30, 295–305 (2011). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00338-010-0710-6

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Keywords

  • Habitat selection
  • Ambient underwater sound
  • Orientation cues
  • Coral reef fish
  • Post-settlement movement
  • Patch reefs