Coral larvae are poor swimmers and require fine-scale reef structure to settle

Tom Hata, Joshua S. Madin, Vivian R. Cumbo, Mark Denny, Joanna Figueiredo, Saki Harii, Christopher J. Thomas, Andrew H. Baird*

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    47 Citations (Scopus)
    33 Downloads (Pure)

    Abstract

    Reef coral assemblages are highly dynamic and subject to repeated disturbances, which are predicted to increase in response to climate change. Consequently there is an urgent need to improve our understanding of the mechanisms underlying different recovery scenarios. Recent work has demonstrated that reef structural complexity can facilitate coral recovery, but the mechanism remains unclear. Similarly, experiments suggest that coral larvae can distinguish between the water from healthy and degraded reefs, however, whether or not they can use these cues to navigate to healthy reefs is an open question. Here, we use a meta-analytic approach to document that coral larval swimming speeds are orders of magnitude lower than measurements of water flow both on and off reefs. Therefore, the ability of coral larvae to navigate to reefs while in the open-ocean, or to settlement sites while on reefs is extremely limited. We then show experimentally that turbulence generated by fine scale structure is required to deliver larvae to the substratum even in conditions mimicking calm back-reef flow environments. We conclude that structural complexity at a number of scales assists coral recovery by facilitating both the delivery of coral larvae to the substratum and settlement.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article number2249
    Pages (from-to)1-9
    Number of pages9
    JournalScientific Reports
    Volume7
    Issue number1
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 22 May 2017

    Bibliographical note

    Copyright the Author(s) 2017. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.

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