Relative importance of water column vs zooplankton variables in the determination of late-stage larval fish assemblage structure in coastal waters of a coral reef lagoon


  • Laure Carassou institute of research for the Development (IRD)
  • Dominique Ponton institute of research for the Development (IRD)



late-stage coral-reef fish larvae, zooplanktonic prey, water column properties, bays, spatial and temporal scale


The relationship between fish larvae and their zooplanktonic prey has not been fully explored for late-stage larvae of coral-reef fish in lagoonal environments. However, compared to most temperate taxa, these larvae are characterized by strong sensory and swimming abilities, which may influence their feeding behaviour in the water column. The present study aims to determine the relative importance of the water column and zooplankton variables for the structure of pre-settlement larval fish assemblages within a single season in three bays of the coral reef lagoon of New Caledonia, southwest Pacific. The structure of larval assemblages was found to be explained better by water column variables in two out of the three bays examined. Zooplankton variables only played a role in one bay out of the three, probably due to the lower variability in the water column variables. Moreover, the relationship between total larval fish abundance and zooplankton density was not significant in any of the three bays. These results suggest that the relationship between late-stage coral-reef fish larvae and their prey: 1) is difficult to detect at small spatial and temporal scales, 2) is probably complex and non-linear, 3) depends on environmental conditions, and 4) probably varies between fish taxa.


Download data is not yet available.


Ali Khan, J. and g. Hempel. – 1974. relation of fish larvae and zooplankton biomass in the gulf of aden. Mar. Biol., 28: 311-316.

Aminot, A. and R. Kérouel. – 2004. Hydrologie des écosystèmes marins. Paramètres et analyses. Éditions ifremer, Brest.

Bailey, K.M. and E.D.Houde. – 1989. Predation on eggs and larvae of marine fishes and the recruitment problem. Adv. Mar. Biol., 25: 1-83. doi:10.1016/S0065-2881(08)60187-X

Brander, K.M., R.R. Dickson, and J.G. Shepherd. – 2001. Modeling the timing of plankton production and its effect on recruitment of cod (Gadus morhua). ICES J. Mar. Sci., 85: 962-966. doi:10.1006/jmsc.2001.1086

Carassou, L. – 2008. Les assemblages de larves de poissons dans le lagon de Nouvelle-Calédonie : structure spatio-temporelle et relations avec les facteurs abiotiques et biotiques de l’environnement. Ph.D. thesis, École Pratique des Hautes Études Perpignan.

Carassou, L. and D. Ponton. – 2007. spatio-temporal structure of pelagic larval and juvenile fish assemblages in coastal areas of New Caledonia, southwest Pacific. Mar. Biol., 150: 697-711. doi:10.1007/s00227-006-0389-y

Carassou, L., D. Ponton, C. mellin and r. galzin. – 2008. Predicting the structure of larval fish assemblages structure by a hierarchical classification of meteorological and water column forcing factors. Coral Reefs, 27: 867-880. doi:10.1007/s00338-008-0388-1

Carassou L., r. Le Borgne and D. Ponton. – 2009. Diet of pre-settlement larvae of coral-reef fish: selection of prey types and sizes. J. Fish Biol., in press. Available on line at

Choat, J.H., P.J. Doherty, B.A. Kerrigan and J.M. Leis. – 1993. a comparison of towed nets, purse seine and light-aggregation devices for sampling larvae and pelagic juveniles of coral reef fishes. Fish. Bull., 91: 195-209.

Clarke, K.R. and M. Ainsworth. – 1993. a method of linking multivariate community structure to environmental variables. Mar. Ecol. Prog. Ser., 92: 205-219. doi:10.3354/meps092205

Clarke, K.R. and R.N. Gorley. – 2006. PRIMERv5: User manual/Tutorial. Primer-e: Plymouth routines in multivariate ecological research.

Cowan, J.H. and R.F. Shaw. – 1991. ichthyoplankton off west Louisiana in winter 1981-1982 and its relationship with zooplankton biomass. Contrib. Mar. Sci., 32: 103-121.

Cushing, D.H. – 1975. Marine ecology and fisheries. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.

Cushing, D.H. – 1990. Plankton production and year-class strength in fish populations: an update of the match/mismatch hypothesis. Adv Mar Biol., 26: 250-293.

Ditty, J.G., R.F. Shaw and J.S. Cope. – 2004. Distribution of carangid larvae (teleostei: Carangidae) and concentrations of zooplankton in the northern gulf of mexico, with illustrations of early Hemicaranx amblyrhynchus and Caranx spp. larvae. Mar Biol., 145: 1001-1014. doi:10.1007/s00227-004-1381-z

Doherty, P.J. – 1987. Light-traps: selective but useful devices for quantifying the distributions and abundances of larval-fishes. Bull. Mar. Sci. 41: 423-431.

Doherty, P.J. and J.H. Carleton. – 1997. the distribution and abundance of pelagic juvenile fish near grub reef, Central great Barrier reef. in: H.a. Lessios and i.g. macintyre (eds.) Proc. 8th Int. Coral Reef Sym. Vol 2, pp. 1155-1160. Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, Panama.

Fisher, R., and D.R. Bellwood. – 2002. The influence of swimming speed on sustained swimming performance of late-stage reef fish larvae. Mar. Biol., 140: 801-807. doi:10.1007/s00227-001-0758-5

Haney, J.F. – 1988. Diel patterns of zooplankton behavior. Bull. Mar. Sci., 43: 583-603.

Harden-Jones, F.r. – 1968. Fish migration. edward arnold Publishers, London.

Hartmann, J. – 1983. Two feeding strategies of young fishes. Arch. Hydrobiol., 96(4): 496-509.

Houde, E.D. and J.A. Lovdal. – 1984. Seasonality of occurrence, foods and food preferences of ichthyoplankton in Biscayne Bay, Florida. Est. Coast. Shelf Sci., 18: 403-419. doi:10.1016/0272-7714(84)90080-5

Legendre, P. and L. Legendre. – 1998. Numerical Ecology, Elsevier Science, Amsterdam.

Leis, J.M. – 1991. The pelagic stage of reef fishes: the larval biology of coral reef fishes. in: sale PF (ed.), The Ecology of Fishes on Coral Reefs, pp. 183-227. Academic Press, San Diego.

Leis, J.M. – 2006. Are larvae of demersal fishes plankton or nekton? Adv. Mar. Biol., 51: 59-141. doi:10.1016/S0065-2881(06)51002-8 PMid:16905426

Leis, J.M. and B.M. Carson-ewart (eds). – 2000. The larvae of Indo-Pacific Coastal Fishes, an identification guide to marine fish larvae. Fauna melanesia Handbooks vol 2, Australian Museum, Sydney.

Leis, J.M. and T. Trnski. – 1989. The larvae of Indo-Pacific shorefishes. New South Wales University Press, Kensington.

McCormick, M.I. and B.W. Molony. – 1992. effects of feeding history on the growth characteristics of a reef fish at settlement. Mar. Biol., 114: 165-173.

Meekan, M.G., J.H. Carleton, C.R. Steinberg, A.D. Mckinnon, R. Brinkman, P.J. Doherty, A. Halford, S. Duggan and L. Mason. – 2006. turbulent mixing and mesoscale distributions of late stage fish larvae on the nW shelf of Western australia. Fish. Oceanogr., 15: 44-59. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2419.2005.00351.x

Nelson, J.s. – 2006. Fishes of the world. John Wiley & Sons, Hoboken.

Omori, M. and W.M. Hammer. – 1982. Patchy distribution of zooplankton: behavior, population assessment and sampling problems. Mar. Biol., 72: 193-200 doi:10.1007/BF00396920

Pepin, P., J.F. Dower and F.J.m. Davidson. – 2003. a spatially explicit study of prey-predator interactions in larval fish: assessing the influence of food and predator abundance on larval growth and survival. Fish. Oceanogr., 12: 19-33. doi:10.1046/j.1365-2419.2003.00221.x

Sampey, A., A.D. Mckinnon, M.G. Meekan and M.I. McCormick. – 2007. glimpse into guts: overview of the feeding of larvae of tropical shorefishes. Mar. Ecol. Prog. Ser., 339: 243-257. doi:10.3354/meps339243

Sanvicente-Añorve, L., L.A. Loto, M.L. Espinosa-Fuentes and C. Flores-Coto. – 2006. Relationship patterns between ichthyo-plankton and zooplankton: a conceptual model. Hydrobiologia, 559: 11-22. doi:10.1007/s10750-005-1323-x

Scherrer, B. – 1984. Boistatistique. Gaëtan Morin editions, Boucherville.

Voss R., C. Clemmesen, H. Baumann and H.H. Hinrichsen. – 2006. Baltic sprat larvae: coupling food availability, larval condition and survival. Mar. Ecol. Prog. Ser., 308: 243-254. doi:10.3354/meps308243

Wilson, D.t. – 2001. Patterns of replenishment of coral-reef fishes in the nearshore waters of the san Blas archipelago, Carribean Panama. Mar. Biol., 139: 735-753.




How to Cite

Carassou L, Ponton D. Relative importance of water column vs zooplankton variables in the determination of late-stage larval fish assemblage structure in coastal waters of a coral reef lagoon. scimar [Internet]. 2009Oct.30 [cited 2022Dec.5];73(S1):73-84. Available from: