Fronts and eddies as key structures in the habitat of marine fish larvae: opportunity, adaptive response and competitive advantage
Keywords:population dynamics, fisheries oceanography, convergence zones, divergence zones, upwelling, predator pits, ecological succession, tuna spawning areas
Surface fronts and mesoscale eddies are two classes of ocean structures that engender significant pattern in the habitats of marine organisms. Both are sites where mechanical energy of the physical system may be accessible for augmenting trophic energy available to biological organisms. Accordingly, they may offer opportunities for exceptional local productivity and growth of species particularly adapted to excelling in such highly-productive rapid-growth/high-mortality situations. The major relevant physical mechanisms involved are presented. A widespread attraction of many types of fish to floating objects drifting in the ocean is cited as an apparent adaptive response to the desirable aspects of surface fronts. An apparent contrary tendency for certain important marine fish species to be particularly successful in relatively poorly productive situations, where slower growth may be offset by much lower early life predation mortality, is also noted. Competing tradeoffs between (1) early life nutrition and resulting growth, and (2) mortality of early stages due to predation are suggested. These tradeoffs are posed and illustrated via a “predator pit” conceptual framework. Illustrations of the evident reproductive habitat choices of several populations of large temperate tunas are briefly presented. It is concluded that the time may have come for a general shift in the approach of at-sea fish larval ecological investigations from the conventional focus on associations with environmental properties on a “macro” scale to intensive investigations of the real-time progressions of linked physical-biological interactions occurring on a “meso” (and smaller) scale.
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