Source: New Scientist
For a macro underwater photographer, filling the frame with a little blenny or goby—and nailing focus perfectly, of course—can be extremely satisfying. Well, it turns out that these tiny fishes aren’t just lovely photographic subjects—they’re also some of the most important inhabitants of the reef. A new study says that those miniscule fish that hide among the corals may be responsible for providing much of the food that supports the bigger fish that are found on healthy reefs.
The research, led by Simon Brandl of Simon Fraser University in Canada, found that when looking at the plankton around reefs, 70% of the fish larvae were of so-called “cryptobenthic” species—reef fish that are less than two inches long as adults. The eggs of these small fish develop fast and the larvae stay near the reef, as opposed to the larvae of bigger fish, which develop slower and therefore disperse over vast distances, away from the reef.
When the researchers modeled the phenomenon, they discovered that tiny fish provide some 60% of all the fish biomass consumed on reefs. The logic makes sense: While at any given moment the total biomass of these tiny fish is small, since they have a high mortality rate, they are actually providing most of the food when you consider their contribution over longer periods. As Brandl’s colleague Isabelle Cote puts it, “There’s this massive turnover.”
The work suggests that efforts to conserve and restore the reef should perhaps not only be focused on the larger fish and on the corals themselves, but on the littlest fish, too.
Read more here.
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