Orientation of Mediterranean fish larvae varies with location
Fish larvae at settlement represent a determining stage for maintaining coastal fish populations. This early life stage is decisive for the dispersal, recruitment, and habitat colonisation of coastal fish species. This study aims at observing the orientation behaviour of eight Mediterranean fish taxa, in four families, at settlement stage in two experimental sites along the north-east Corsican coastline (north-west Mediterranean Sea), a Sandy and a Rocky coastal site with different environmental characteristics. The objective was to detect if there were differences in directionality (i.e. the ability of individuals to maintain a fixed bearing in their environment) and orientation (i.e. the consistency among the bearing of individuals at species level) between the two coastal sites for the tested species. We also tried to identify the environmental factors that may influence directionality and orientation. The results show strong directionality for most fish larvae, with proportions of directional individuals generally exceeding 80%, either at community or species level (4 ≤ n ≤ 46 per species). Only the white seabream, Diplodus sargus, showed significant orientation behaviour, towards a cardinal direction, towards the sun in both experimental sites, as well as towards the coast in the Sandy site and towards the open sea in the Rocky site. The other species did not show significant orientation. This study supports the theory that orientation behaviour is dependent both on species and the environment perceived by the fish larvae. This kind of work is important for developing predictive models of marine population settlement and presents key elements for protection and management of coastal areas.
Special thanks are addressed to the staff of the UMS/CNRS 3514 STELLA MARE technical team involved in the field campaigns. Our special thanks to Claire B. Paris and her laboratory team for sharing the technical details of the DISC device.
Compliance with ethical standards
Conflict of interest
This study was co-financed by the UMR/CNRS 6134 “Sciences Pour l’Environnement” and the UMS/CNRS 3514 STELLA MARE of the Università di Corsica Pasquale Paoli through European funding, French state, and Corsican region. The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
Collection samples were conducted with a fishing authorization delivered by the Interregional Directorate of the Mediterranean Sea with the n°355 for the UMS/CNRS 3514 STELLA MARE, Università di Corsica Pasquale Paoli. The protocol experiment on the Corsican coastline was approved by the French Ministry of Higher Education and Research (“Autorisation de Projet utilisant des Animaux à des Fins Scientifiques”), authorization n°9643. Experiments were made with efforts to minimise stress of individual samples, which is crucial both ethically and for the validity of behaviour observations.
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