Otolith geochemistry does not reflect dispersal history of clownfish larvae

Natural geochemical signatures in calcified structures are commonly employed to retrospectively estimate dispersal pathways of larval fish and invertebrates. However, the accuracy of the approach is generally untested due to the absence of individuals with known dispersal histories. We used genetic parentage analysis (genotyping) to divide 110 new recruits of the orange clownfish, Amphiprion percula, from Kimbe Island, Papua New Guinea, into two groups: "self-recruiters" spawned by parents on Kimbe Island and "immigrants" that had dispersed from distant reefs (>10 km away). Analysis of daily increments in sagittal otoliths found no significant difference in PLDs or otolith growth rates between self-recruiting and immigrant larvae. We also quantified otolith Sr/Ca and Ba/Ca ratios during the larval phase using laser ablation inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry. Again, we found no significant differences in larval profiles of either element between self-recruits and immigrants. Our results highlight the need for caution when interpreting otolith dispersal histories based on natural geochemical tags in the absence of water chemistry data or known-origin larvae with which to test the discriminatory ability of natural tags. © 2010 Springer-Verlag.

Berumen, M. L., Walsh, H. J., Raventos, N., Planes, S., Jones, G. P., Starczak, V., & Thorrold, S. R. (2010). Otolith geochemistry does not reflect dispersal history of clownfish larvae. Coral Reefs, 29(4), 883–891. doi:10.1007/s00338-010-0652-z

The crew of the M. V. FeBrina and the staff of the Mahonia Na Dari research station provided invaluable logistic support. Discussions with M. Meekan, D. Hogan, and D. Heath, as well as comments from P. Munday and two anonymous reviewers greatly improved the manuscript. Field assistance was provided by C. Hervet, V. Messmer, M. Srinivasan, and C. Syms. The Mahonia Na Dari Research and Conservation Centre, Walindi Plantation Resort, The Nature Conservancy, and the crew of M. V. FeBrina provided essential logistic support. We acknowledge the traditional owners for allowing us access to their reefs. Research was supported by the Australian Research Council, the Coral Reef Initiatives for the Pacific (CRISP), the Global Environmental Facility CRTR Connectivity Working Group, the Total Foundation, a National Science Foundation grant (# 0424688) to SRT, and a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship to MLB. The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

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