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butterfly fish in Papua New Guinea

Settling Behavior

Marine reserves promote coral reef sustainability by preventing overfishing and increasing fish abundance and diversity. But to be effective, they need to be sized right, and in a way that accounts for how far larval fish travel away from their parents after spawning. Working in Papua New Guinea as part of the largest, most comprehensive study of larval dispersal ever conducted, WHOI biologist Simon Thorrold and his colleagues were able to determine that most larval butterflyfish settle 43-64 kilometers' distance from their natal reefs. By contrast, larval clownfish stayed relatively close to home, traveling mean distances of 10-15 kilometers to settle in their new habitats. (Photo by Simon Thorrold, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution)


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