robitzchOrganizers: Vanessa Robitzch, May B. Roberts & Michael L. Berumen
Affiliations: Red Sea Research Center, King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, Saudi Arabia / Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of California, Santa Cruz, USA email:
Lead contact: Vanessa Robitzch

Description: Coral reef fishes usually have a bipartite life cycle with a benthic adult stage, during which movement between reefs is highly restricted. Thus, species rely on their pelagic larval duration (PLD) to disperse and maintain biogeographic ranges as well as connectivity between populations. The study of the early life stages of fishes is a difficult and intriguing field of research. Most larvae spend their smallest, most vulnerable, and hardest to track stages out in the open oceans fighting numerous physical, biotic, and abiotic threats. This experience is lethal for the majority of the larvae, therefore, when and where they end up is nearly impossible to predict, observe, and track. Thus, the pelagic larval phase is commonly known as the “black box” of a fish’s life cycle and it can be quite different between species. A plentiful, healthy, and consistent supply of recruiting larvae is essential to maintain coral reef fish populations, specially in regions where fishing and other anthropogenic impacts such as coastal development, pollution, and climate change, are especially strong. We herewith invite talks that will address research on early life stages of fishes including the description of reproductive biology; spawning aggregations; larval fish behavior and physiology; PLDs; modeling of dispersal and connectivity routes of larvae; inference of kinship and genetic structure of recruitment cohorts; and the description of settlement patterns, grounds, sites, and habitats.

Expected Audience: We believe this session will be of great interest for a wide range of marine scientists as it tackles multidisciplinary and primary questions on the sources of fish populations and the maintenance of biodiversity in increasingly threatened coral reefs. Therefore, we expect experts from various disciplines such as coral reef fish ecologists, physiologist; planktologists; population geneticists; physical oceanographers and modelers; as well as conservation biologists and coastal managers to join this session.