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Larval fish orientation

The larval stages of most marine fishes spend days to weeks in the pelagic environment, where they must find food and avoid predators in order to survive. Some fish only spend part of their life history in the pelagic environment before returning to their adult habitat, for example, a coral reef. Orientation in ocean currents is challenging for tiny fish larvae, yet is essential for finding adult habitat and completing their life cycles. Fish larvae are good at swimming and orientating, but little is known about the senses (other than hearing) used for this.

larval fish larval fish fish hiding in coral
Pre-settlement reef fish – Chromis (left), various species as typically caught in light traps (middle) and new settlers on the reef (right).

In collaboration with Jeff Leis and Claire Paris, we are investigating the use of visual cues for orientation in larval reef fish. We are combining anatomical studies of the visual system with behavioural experiments (in the laboratory and in situ) to test the ability of reef fish larvae to detect and use visual cues, such as sun position and polarisation.

fieldwork fieldwork fieldwork
Jeff Leis and Amanda Hay taking the DISC (drifting in situ chamber) to the study site; laboratory orientation experiments conducted on Lizard Island and light traps ready to be deployed.

Collaborators and students

  • Jeff Leis
  • • Claire Paris
  • • Amanda Hay
  • • Jack O’Connor

2016 Siebeck Visual Neuroethology Lab
Web design: Diana Kleine – Photos: Uli Siebeck, Maxi Eckes