Mortality is very high during the pelagic larval phase of fishes but the factors that determine recruitment success remain unclear and hard to predict. Because of their bipartite life history, larvae of coastal species have to head back to the shore at the end of their pelagic episode, to settle. These settlement-stage larvae are known to display strong sensory and motile abilities, but most work has been focused on tropical, insular environments and on the influence of coast-related cues on orientation. In this study we quantified the in situ orientation behavior of settlement-stage larvae in a temperate region, with a continuous coast and a dominant along-shore current, and inspected both coast-dependent and independent cues. We tested six species: one Pomacentridae, Chromis chromis, and five Sparidae, Boops boops, Diplodus annularis, Oblada melanura, Spicara smaris and Spondyliosoma cantharus. Over 85% of larvae were highly capable of keeping a bearing, which is comparable to the orientation abilities of tropical species. Sun-related cues influenced the precision of bearing-keeping at individual level. Three species, out of the four tested in sufficient numbers, oriented significantly relative to the sun position. These are the first in situ observations demonstrating the use of a sun compass for orientation by wild-caught settlementstage larvae. This mechanism has potential for large-scale orientation of fish larvae globally.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
- Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)