, Volume 143, Issue 2, pp 326–334 | Cite as

Larval sensory abilities and mechanisms of habitat selection of a coral reef fish during settlement

  • David Lecchini
  • Jeffrey Shima
  • Bernard Banaigs
  • René Galzin
Behavioural Ecology


Sensory abilities and preferences exhibited by mobile larvae during their transition to juvenile habitats can establish spatial heterogeneity that drives subsequent species interactions and dynamics of populations. We conducted a series of laboratory and field experiments using coral reef fish larvae (Chromis viridis) to determine: ecological determinants of settlement choice (conspecifics vs. heterospecifics vs. coral substrates); sensory mechanisms (visual, acoustic/vibratory, olfactory) underlying settlement choice; and sensory abilities (effective detection distances of habitat) under field conditions. C. viridis larvae responded positively to visual, acoustic/vibratory, and olfactory cues expressed by conspecifics. Overall, larvae chose compartments of experimental arenas containing conspecifics in 75% of trials, and failed to show any significant directional responses to heterospecifics or coral substrates. In field trials, C. viridis larvae detected reefs containing conspecifics using visual and/or acoustic/vibratory cues at distances <75 cm; detection distances increased to <375 cm when olfactory capacity was present (particularly for reefs located up-current). We conducted high performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) analyses of seawater containing C. viridis juveniles and isolated high concentrations of several organic compounds. Subsequent laboratory trials demonstrated that C. viridis larvae responded positively to only one of these organic compounds. This compound was characterized by a weak polarity and was detected at 230 nm with a 31-min retention time in HPLC. Overall, our results suggest that fishes may use a range of sensory mechanisms effective over different spatial scales to detect and choose settlement sites, and species-specific cues may play a vital role in establishment of spatial patterns at settlement.


Coral reef fish larvae Sensory mechanisms Habitat selection Settlement cues High performance liquid chromatography 



The authors wish to thank N. Phillips, and two anonymous reviewers for their comments improving the quality of this manuscript, and J. Algret and Y. Chancerelle for their assistance in the field. This research was supported by the Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes, and a Lavoisier Fellowship (French Ministry to Foreign Affairs) awarded to D. Lecchini. Additional logistic and financial supports were provided by the Centre de Recherches Insulaires et Observatoire de l’Environnement (CRIOBE), the Gump Research Station, and an NSF grant (OCE-0242312) and a New Zealand ISAT Linkage Grant supporting the involvement of the J. Shima. This work is a joint contribution from the CRIOBE and Gump Research Stations, both located on Moorea.


  1. Allen GR (1991) Damselfishes of the world. Mergus, GermanyGoogle Scholar
  2. Baker CF, Montgomery JC (2001) Species-specific attraction of migratory banded kokopu juveniles to adult pheromones. J Fish Biol 8:1221–1229CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Booth DJ (1992) Larval settlement patterns and preferences by domino damselfish Dascyllus albisella gill. J Exp Mar Biol Ecol 155:85–104CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Browne KA, Zimmer R (2001) Controlled field release of a waterborne chemical signal stimulates planktonic larvae to settle. Biol Bull 200:87–91Google Scholar
  5. Connell SD, Jones GP (1991) The influence of habitat complexity on post-recruitment processes in a temperate reef fish population. J Exp Mar Biol Ecol 151:271–294CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Doherty PJ (2002) Variable replenishment and the dynamics of reef fish populations. In: Sale PF (ed) Coral reef fishes: dynamics and diversity in a complex ecosystem. Academic, San Diego, pp 327–358Google Scholar
  7. Dudley B, Tolimieri N, Montgomery J (2000) Swimming ability of the larvae of some reef fishes from New Zealand waters. Mar Freshw Res 51:783–787CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Dufour V, Galzin R (1993) Colonization patterns of reef fish larvae to the lagoon at Moorea Island, French Polynesia. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 102:143–152Google Scholar
  9. Elliott JK, Elliott JM, Mariscal RN (1995) Host selection, location, and association behaviors of anemone fishes in field settlement experiments. Mar Biol 122:377–389CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Fontaine M, JeanJean S, Monzikoff A (1982) Intervention possible de la riboflavine (vitamine B2) comme télémédiateur chimique dans les écosystèmes aquatiques. C R Acad Sci Ser III:165–167Google Scholar
  11. Galzin R, Pointier JP (1985) Moorea Island, Society archipelago. In: Proceedings of 5th International Coral Reef Symp, vol 1, pp 75–101Google Scholar
  12. Gebauer P, Paschke K, Anger K (2002) Metamorphosis in a semiterrestrial crab, Sesarma curacaoense: intra and interspecific settlement cues from adults’ odors. J Exp Mar Biol Ecol 268:1–12CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Janssen J, Jones WR, Whang A, Oshel PE (1995) Use of the lateral line in particulate feeding in the dark by juvenile alewife (Alosa pseudoharengus). Can J Fish Aquat Sci 52:358–363Google Scholar
  14. Kaus S (1987) The effect of aminoglycoside antibiotics on the lateral line organ of Aplocheilus lineatus (Cyprinodontidae). Acta Otolaryngol 103:291–298Google Scholar
  15. Kingsford MJ, Leis JM, Shanks A, Lindeman K, Morgan S, Pineda J (2002) Sensory environments, larval abilities and local self-recruitment. Bull Mar Sci 70:309–340Google Scholar
  16. Lecchini D (2003) Identification of habitat use strategies between the colonization and recruitment stages of coral reef fish in the lagoon of Moorea (French Polynesia): approach by behavioral ecology. PhD Thesis, University of Pierre and Marie CurieGoogle Scholar
  17. Leis JM, Carson-Ewart BM (1997) In situ swimming speeds of the late pelagic larvae of some Indo-Pacific coral reef fishes. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 159:165–174Google Scholar
  18. Leis JM, Carson-Ewart BM, Cato DH (2002) Sound detection in situ by the larvae of a coral reef damselfish (Pomacentridae). Mar Ecol Prog Ser 232:259–268Google Scholar
  19. Liang XF, Liu JK, Huang BY (1998) The role of sense organs in the feeding behavior of Chinese perch. J Fish Biol 52:1058–1067CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Mant CT, Hodges RS (1991) High-performance liquid chromatography of peptides and proteins: separations, analysis, and conformation. CRC Press, BostonGoogle Scholar
  21. Myrberg AA, Fuiman LA (2002) The sensory world of coral reef fishes. In: Sale PF (ed) Coral reef fishes: dynamics and diversity in a complex ecosystem. Academic, San Diego, pp 123–148Google Scholar
  22. Natunewicz CC, Epifanio CE, Garvine RW (2001) Transport of crab larval patches in the coastal ocean. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 2001:143–154Google Scholar
  23. Ohman MC, Rajasuriya A, Olafsson E (1997) Reef fish assemblages in north-western Sri Lanka: distribution patterns and influences of fishing practices. Environ Biol Fish 49:45–61CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Painter SD, Clough B, Garden RW, Sweedler JV, Nagle GT (1998) Characterization of Aplysia attractin, the first water-borne peptide pheromone in invertebrates. Biol Bull 194:120–131Google Scholar
  25. Pawlik JR (1992) Chemical ecology of the settlement of benthic marine invertebrates. Oceanography Mar Biol Annu Rev 30:273–335Google Scholar
  26. Poulin E, Palma AT, Leiva G, Narvaez D, Pacheco R, Navarrete SA, Castilla JC (2002) Avoiding offshore transport of competent larvae during upwelling events: the case of the gastropod Concholepas concholepas in Central Chile. Limnol Oceanogr 47:1248–1255Google Scholar
  27. Schmitt RJ, Holbrook SJ (1996) Local-scale patterns of larval settlement in a planktivorous damselfish: do they predict recruitment? Aust J Mar Freshw Res 47:449–463Google Scholar
  28. Schmitt RJ, Holbrook SJ (1999) Mortality of juvenile damselfish: implications for assessing processes that determine abundance. Ecology 80:35–50Google Scholar
  29. Shima JS (2001a) Recruitment of a coral reef fish: roles of settlement, habitat, and post-settlement losses. Ecology 82:2190–2199Google Scholar
  30. Shima JS (2001b) Regulation of local populations of a coral reef fish via joint effects of density- and number-dependent mortality. Oecologia 126:58–65CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Shima JS, Osenberg CW (2003) Cryptic density dependence: effects of covariation between density and site quality in reef fish. Ecology 84:46–52Google Scholar
  32. Sola C, Spampanato A, Tosi L (1993) Behavioural responses of glass eels (Anguilla anguilla) towards amino acids. J Fish Biol 42:683–691CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Sponaugle S, Cowen RK, Shanks A, Morgan SG, Leis JM, Pineda J, Boehlert GW, Kingsford MJ, Lindeman KC, Grimes C, Munro JL (2002) Predicting self-recruitment in marine populations: biophysical correlates and mechanisms. Bull Mar Sci 70:341–375Google Scholar
  34. Stobutzki IC, Bellwood DR (1997) Sustained swimming abilities of the late pelagic stages of coral reef fishes. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 149:35–41Google Scholar
  35. Sweatman H (1983) Influence of conspecifics on choice of settlement sites by larvae of two pomacentrid fishes (Dascyllus aruanus and D. reticulatus) on coral reefs. Mar Biol 75:225–229CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Sweatman HPA (1988) Field evidence that settling coral reef fish larvae detect resident fishes using dissolved chemical cues. J Exp Mar Biol Ecol 124:163–174CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Tolimieri N, Sale PF, Nemuth RS, Gestring KB (1998) Replenishment of populations of Caribbean reef fishes: are spatial patterns of recruitment consistent through time? J Exp Mar Biol Ecol 230:55–71CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Tolimieri N, Jeffs A, Montgomery JC (2000) Ambient sound as a cue for navigation by the pelagic larvae of reef fishes. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 207:219–224Google Scholar
  39. Tupper M, Boutilier R (1997) Effects of habitat on settlement, growth, predation risk and survival of a temperate reef fish. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 151:225–236Google Scholar
  40. Tupper M, Hunte W (1994) Recruitment dynamics of coral reef fishes in Barbados. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 108:225–235Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • David Lecchini
    • 1
    • 2
    • 5
  • Jeffrey Shima
    • 3
  • Bernard Banaigs
    • 4
  • René Galzin
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Ecole Pratique des Hautes EtudesUniversité de PerpignanPerpignanFrance
  2. 2.CRIOBE, Centre de Recherches Insulaires et Observatoire de l’EnvironnementMoorea PolynésieFrance
  3. 3.School of Biological SciencesVictoria University of WellingtonWellingtonNew Zealand
  4. 4.Laboratoire de Chimie des Biomolécules et de l’EnvironnementUniversité de PerpignanPerpignanFrance
  5. 5.Laboratory of Ecology and SystematicsUniversity of the RyukyusJapan

Personalised recommendations