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. 2017 Aug 15;220(Pt 16):2874-2877.
doi: 10.1242/jeb.159491. Epub 2017 Jun 2.

Pre-settlement Coral-Reef Fish Larvae Respond to Magnetic Field Changes During the Day

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Pre-settlement Coral-Reef Fish Larvae Respond to Magnetic Field Changes During the Day

Jack O'Connor et al. J Exp Biol. .
Free article


Observations of coral-reef fish larvae have revealed remarkably consistent orientation behaviour while swimming offshore, requiring large-scale orientation cues. However, the mechanisms underlying this behaviour are still being investigated. One potential large-scale cue for orientation is the Earth's geomagnetic field. Here, we examined the effect of magnetic field manipulations on the orientation behaviour of coral-reef fish during the pelagic larval phase. In the absence of visual cues, individual larvae responded to a 90 deg shift of the horizontal component of the magnetic field within a Helmholtz coil with a comparable shift in orientation, demonstrating that they use a magnetic compass for orientation. Our findings suggest that geomagnetic field information guides swimming behaviour of larval fish in the pre-settlement phase. The ability to use large-scale sensory cues allows location-independent orientation of swimming, a behaviour that influences dispersal and connectivity of fish populations, which has important ecological implications for anthropogenic development of marine areas.

Keywords: Dispersal; Larval ecology; Magnetoreception; Orientation behaviour.

Conflict of interest statement

Competing interestsThe authors declare no competing or financial interests.

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