Publication date: Available online 11 January 2020
Source: Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science
Author(s): Vânia Baptista, Francisco Leitão, Pedro Morais, Maria Alexandra Teodósio, Eric WolanskiAbstract
The development of sensorial acuity and swimming capabilities of coastal fish larvae and their responses to coastal nursery cues are essential for recruitment success. Most studies of the response of fish larvae to environmental cues and their recruitment into nursery areas have focused on coral reef fish and only a few studies focused on fish species from temperate regions. The Sense Acuity and Behavioural (SAAB) Hypothesis proposes that fish larvae in temperate regions can sense nursery cues and ingress into estuarine ecosystems by using several active swimming strategies. We tested the SAAB hypothesis by studying the ingress of a temperate fish larvae – white seabream Diplodus sargus (Linnaeus, 1758) – into a coastal nursery area, the Ria Formosa Lagoon, Portugal. We combined the results from studies of sensory acuity, swimming capabilities and personality traits of post-flexion larvae with a fine-scale biophysical model to quantify the ingress of the white seabream into the lagoon. Data showed that the location of spawning sites and the directional swimming capabilities are both important for the successful ingress of white seabream larvae into the lagoon. Recruitment was higher when spawning grounds were located in areas with depths between 15.1 and 16.9 m and when post-flexion larvae used their directional swimming capabilities. The larvae ingressed passively into the lagoon with the tidal currents at pre-flexion stage and actively by using their directional swimming capabilities at post-flexion stage. Directional swimming also prevented larval export into the coastal area. When spawning occurred away from the seagrass smell plume emanating from the lagoon, the fish larvae were advected away and lost at sea. This work demonstrated the relevance of combining fish larvae behaviour and oceanography processes in modelling the dispersion of fish larvae to estimate recruitment.