Reef fishes can recognize bleached habitat during settlement: sea anemone bleaching alters anemonefish host selection

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Scott, A & Dixson, DL 2016, 'Reef fishes can recognize bleached habitat during settlement: sea anemone bleaching alters anemonefish host selection', Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, vol. 283, no. 1831.

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Understanding how bleaching impacts the settlement of symbiotic habitat specialists and whether there is flexibility in settlement choices with regard to habitat quality is essential given our changing climate. We used five anemonefishes (Amphiprion clarkii, Amphiprion latezonatus, Amphiprion ocellaris, Amphiprion percula and Premnas biaculeatus) and three host sea anemones (Entacmaea quadricolor, Heteractis crispa and Heteractis magnifica) in paired-choice flume experiments to determine whether habitat naive juveniles have the olfactory capabilities to distinguish between unbleached and bleached hosts, and how this may affect settlement decisions. All anemonefishes were able to distinguish between bleached and unbleached hosts, and responded only to chemical cues from species-specific host anemones irrespective of health status, indicating a lack of flexibility in host use. While bleached hosts were selected as habitat, this occurred only when unbleached options were unavailable, with the exception of A. latezonatus, which showed strong preferences for H. crispa regardless of health. This study highlights the potential deleterious indirect impacts of declining habitat quality during larval settlement in habitat specialists, which could be important in the field, given that bleaching events are becoming increasingly common.

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Related Dataset:

Scott, Anna and Dixson, Danielle L. (2016). Data from: Chemical cue preference results for all anemonefishes tested. Southern Cross University. http://dx.doi.org/10.4226/47/571f07121b012

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