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Kelton McMahon holds a fish otilith

Tiny bone packs a lifetime of information

The small white object on MIT/WHOI Joint Program student Kelton McMahon's finger is a fish's otolith, or ear bone. Otoliths are composed of layers secreted by a fish every day of its life, incorporating trace impurities from water the fish swims through—which provides a chemical record of where the fish has traveled. McMahon, a student in biologist Simon Thorrold's lab, studies the connections between adult coral reef fish and their juvenile nurseries in mangroves, in study areas including the Liquid Jungle Lab in Panama and coral reefs in the Red Sea.
(Photo by Tom Kleindinst, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution)


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