Most coral reef fish larvae hatch with well-developed sensory systems and are thought to utilize a range of sensory cues for navigation in the pelagic environment and during settlement site selection. While visual, auditory and olfactory cues are all known to be important, our understanding of how, when and where each sense is used is incomplete. Olfaction is believed to be particularly important in habitat selection. Here, I discuss laboratory and field-based experiments designed to test the importance of olfaction in the navigation and settlement-site decisions made by reef fish larvae, and highlight the complexity and sophistication of this remarkable sensory mechanism. I will also discuss the effect future conditions such as increased terrestrial run-off and ocean acidification will have on the larval olfactory system and inturn larval behaviour. Both result in a sensory disruption, which could have a profound effect on population replenishment and connectivity patterns of many marine species.
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