The coral reefs are of great interest to marine scientists and a recent study revealed that clownfish larvae dispersal methods are not the same for all fish, as previously believed. According to a Rutgers-led finding, how the larvae of colourful clownfish that live among the coral reefs in the Philippines are dispersed varies widely, depending on the year and season - which could help scientists improve conservation of species. It is worth noting that the colourful clownfish lay their eggs in the coral reefs and once they hatch, they become tiny, transparent larvae and float around in a sea of plankton.
The study, published in the journal Molecular Ecology, focused in the Philippines and discovered their dispersal. Waves, aided by winds and currents disperse them, frequently to different reefs. The study, which lasted for over seven years, helped scientists measure how the dispersal of larvae varied over the years and seasonally, including during monsoons. They found that larvae disposal varied a lot on both timescales.
The researchers chose Amphiprion clarki fish, also known as yellowtail clownfish and Clark’s anemone fish. They are one of the most common reef fishes. They said that studies mostly analyse the patterns of larvae dispersal annually so, they often don’t include any variation that might occur over time.
Lead author Katrina A. Catalano, a doctoral student, said, “That means when we don't account for dispersal variability, we could be overestimating the stability of coral reef fish populations. If we study dispersal variability in more species over greater timescales, we will better understand what causes the variation and can better design protected areas for the conservation of species”.
Catalano further explained that it is a problem because studying dispersal is key to understanding larger themes of ecology and evolution like population growth, adaption and extinction. She said that it is also key to understand how any species might be adapting to survive with climate change and global warming. Especially in a time when several reefs have been destroyed and declared dead due to climate change impact.
However, Catalano said that learning these variations in dispersal can help scientists predict which reefs receive most of the large and so on. She said that it can be a crucial step in protecting those reefs which are rich with clownfish and hence are ecologically richer. Catalano added that more research is required with even greater timescale along with population models in order to understand the full effects.