It was about 1997 when I first came to Lizard Island with Jeff Leis reseaching larval fish behaviour. Since then I have been fortunate enough to return about 6 or so times, but no matter how many trips you make it still takes your breath away when you fly into the remote and mostly deserted Island (even if it is in an 8 seater plane in turbulent weather). It always feels like coming back to our second home.
We are back again after all these years armed with a wealth of knowledge about larval (baby) fishes, but somehow there are still more questions than answers. We know larval reef fishes hear, smell, see and swim exceptionally well, plus they are often oriented in their swimming. They have all these seemingly supernatural abilities (considering they are often less than 2 cm long) but how does all this help them find a reef to call home?
Quick bit of background information - reef fishes spawn pelagic eggs and larval fish hatch from these eggs often 10's of kilometres away from a reef in the open ocean. Orientation in ocean currents is challenging for tiny fish larvae, yet is essential for finding adult habitat and completing their life cycles.
With a little help from our friends at the University of Queensland we aim to try and find out how the larvae orient in blue (open) water, in particular whether they are using celestial (such as the sun) cues for orientation and navigation. Understanding the role of orientation behaviour in larval dispersal can be used as a tool in determining the geographic size of marine fish populations – knowledge essential for fishery management and the design and operation of marine parks.
So that's the introduction sorted, soon I'll be back with more fish tales to tell (hopefully).
More Lizard Fish posts