Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


There's no scent like home

New research shows larval fish use smell to return to coral reefs

Tiny larval fish living among Australia's Great Barrier Reef spend the early days of their lives swept up in ocean currents that disperse them far from their places of birth. Given such a life history, one might assume that fish populations would be genetically homogeneous within the dispersal area. Yet the diversity of reef fish species is high and individual reefs contain different fish populations. For such rich biodiversity to have evolved, some form of population isolation is required.

New research from MBL (Marine Biological Laboratory) Associate Scientist Gabriele Gerlach, MBL Adjunct Senior Scientist Jelle Atema, and their colleagues shows that some fish larvae can discriminate odors in ocean currents and use scent to return to the reefs where they were born. The olfactory imprinting of natal reefs sheds light on how such a wide diversity of species arose. The homing behavior of reef fishes, the researchers contend, could support population isolation and genetic divergence that may ultimately lead to the formation of new species.

Gerlach, Atema, and their team will present the results of their research in next week's online Early Edition of The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The scientists studied fish populations in five neighboring reefs (all part of the Great Barrier Reef) where genetic mixing would be expected. They used a multidisciplinary approach including hydrodynamic modeling to describe prevailing ocean current distribution patterns among the reefs; genetic markers to track the relatedness of three species of fishes which live among the reefs; and olfactory choice tests using flumes to test the larvae's ability to smell the difference between water from the five reefs.

... more about:
»Population »larvae »odor

Their genetic analyses showed that while some fish species do disperse, other species return to their home reef. One species in particular, the cardinal fish (Ostorinchus doederleini), showed significant genetic differences among subpopulations even among reefs separated by as little as 3 km, which suggests strong homing. Using a flume aboard their boat, which exposed larvae to water samples collected from different reefs, the researchers tested if smell might be guiding factor leading the larvae home. The cardinal fish showed a preference for the water from their home reef over all other reefs, suggesting that olfactory cues could lead larvae back.

"This research shows that the spatial distribution of these aquatic organisms is far from being random despite long larval dispersal stages of several weeks," says Gerlach. "Apparently, these larvae--small as they are--use elaborate sensory mechanisms to orientate and find their way to appropriate habitats or express successful homing behavior to their natal spawning sites. This might play a major role in processes of population separation and, eventually, of speciation."

According to Gerlach, the results of this research could have important implications not only for the Great Barrier Reef, but for marine environments in general. "This information should be considered by marine managers as they designate the location and spacing of Marine Protected Areas," she says.

There are still many questions that remain to be answered. For example, Gerlach and Atema's results have not shown how the larvae learn the odor of their reef or how and when during development they use this information. Paper co-author Vanessa Miller-Sims is completing her Ph.D. thesis at Boston University with a focus on this subject. The scientists also do not know the chemical composition of the odor that the larvae use to recognize home. "It may be social odor from its own species or a peculiar mixture of compounds typical for one versus another reef, the way people's homes have typical odors," says Atema. "This chemical information will be important in terms of water quality and management. We are following up with research to obtain such knowledge."

Gina Hebert | EurekAlert!
Further information:

Further reports about: Population larvae odor

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Novel mechanisms of action discovered for the skin cancer medication Imiquimod
21.10.2016 | Technische Universität München

nachricht Second research flight into zero gravity
21.10.2016 | Universität Zürich

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

Im Focus: New Products - Highlights of COMPAMED 2016

COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.

In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...

Im Focus: Ultra-thin ferroelectric material for next-generation electronics

'Ferroelectric' materials can switch between different states of electrical polarization in response to an external electric field. This flexibility means they show promise for many applications, for example in electronic devices and computer memory. Current ferroelectric materials are highly valued for their thermal and chemical stability and rapid electro-mechanical responses, but creating a material that is scalable down to the tiny sizes needed for technologies like silicon-based semiconductors (Si-based CMOS) has proven challenging.

Now, Hiroshi Funakubo and co-workers at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, in collaboration with researchers across Japan, have conducted experiments to...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Resolving the mystery of preeclampsia

21.10.2016 | Health and Medicine

Stanford researchers create new special-purpose computer that may someday save us billions

21.10.2016 | Information Technology

From ancient fossils to future cars

21.10.2016 | Materials Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>