Adaptive significance of the formation of multi-species fish spawning aggregations near submerged capes

Mandy Karnauskas, Laurent M. Chérubin, Claire B. Paris

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

39 Scopus citations


Background: Many fishes are known to spawn at distinct geomorphological features such as submerged capes or "promontories," and the widespread use of these sites for spawning must imply some evolutionary advantage. Spawning at these capes is thought to result in rapid offshore transport of eggs, thereby reducing predation levels and facilitating dispersal to areas of suitable habitat. Methodology/Principal Findings: To test this "off-reef transport" hypothesis, we use a hydrodynamic model and explore the effects of topography on currents at submerged capes where spawning occurs and at similar capes where spawning does not occur, along the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef. All capes modeled in this study produced eddy-shedding regimes, but specific eddy attributes differed between spawning and non-spawning sites. Eddies at spawning sites were significantly stronger than those at non-spawning sites, and upwelling and fronts were the products of the eddy formation process. Frontal zones, present particularly at the edges of eddies near the shelf, may serve to retain larvae and nutrients. Spawning site eddies were also more predictable in terms of diameter and longevity. Passive particles released at spawning and control sites were dispersed from the release site at similar rates, but particles from spawning sites were more highly aggregated in their distributions than those from control sites, and remained closer to shore at all times. Conclusions/Significance: Our findings contradict previous hypotheses that cape spawning leads to high egg dispersion due to offshore transport, and that they are attractive for spawning due to high, variable currents. Rather, we show that current regimes at spawning sites are more predictable, concentrate the eggs, and keep larvae closer to shore. These attributes would confer evolutionary advantages by maintaining relatively similar recruitment patterns year after year.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere22067
JournalPloS one
Issue number7
StatePublished - 2011

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • General


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