Quantitative species-level ecology of reef fish larvae via metabarcoding
Much of the ecology of coral-reef fish depends on a relatively short pelagic period, during which their tiny offspring (larvae) are found meandering far from the reef. Because of their diminutive size, quantitative studies of the circulating 'pool' of larvae, which can encompass tens if not hundreds of species, typically suffer from poor taxonomic resolution; seldom going down to the level of greatest ecological interest - the species. Using a novel molecular approach we have been able obtain the first, species-level quantification relative species abundances within a species-rich larval pool. With the data we addressed basic questions concerning the larval phase, which have not been accessible previously. For example: Do species differ in larval distribution across the water column, in a manner that may affect dispersal? Does the availability of larvae, in the plankton, affect the composition of local adult communities? And more... For answers, see https://www.nature.com/articles/s41559-017-0413-2 (see also https://www.ynet.co.il/articles/0,7340,L-5073900,00.html ).