New online photographic guide to coral reef fish larvae unlocks secrets of young fish release
December 13, 2005, a coral reef fish research site, today announced the availability of a photographic web-guide to the late-stage larvae of coral reef fishes. The guide is aimed at both assisting researchers in identifying the myriad fish larvae that are caught in reef surveys and providing an overview of this intriguing, and often invisible, world to students and interested laymen.

"Virtually all published descriptions of larval fishes are long and technical and illustrated with line drawings" says Benjamin Victor, founder of the site, "I thought that, in this web-age, lively photographs are the way to go."

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The guide will be comprehensive and is starting with the Caribbean fauna, where the number of fish species is not overwhelming- a few hundred vs. thousands in the Indo-Pacific. This allows most larval fishes to be identified down to species. Victor is photographing his large larval fish collection from the San Blas Islands of Panama, as well as other collections from Belize and Barbados. In addition, Victor is recruiting a variety of DNA labs to apply the latest DNA-sequencing technology to identify larvae in some groups with numerous species.

Coral reef fish larvae are pelagic: they spend from a couple of weeks to many months in open ocean waters before returning to the reef to settle down for the rest of their lives. Around the time of settlement, reef fish larvae begin to undergo a profound transition, or metamorphosis, in preparation for settlement ("recruitment" or "replenishment" in population biology terms). The guide will focus on these later stages that are little known and rarely illustrated.

The plan is to then move on to the tropical eastern Pacific which has almost as many species but is essentially terra incognita for larval reef fish biology. Collections from Baja California, the Bay of Panama, and the Galapagos Islands will be included. This guide should become an essential resource for students of the larval biology of fishes.


A guide to the late-stage fish larvae of the Caribbean

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CITATION: release (December 13, 2005).

New online photographic guide to coral reef fish larvae unlocks secrets of young fish.