University of Tasmania

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The influence of habitat association on swimming performance in marine teleost fish larvae

journal contribution
posted on 2023-05-21, 00:08 authored by Downie, AT, Jeffrey LeisJeffrey Leis, Cowman, PF, McCormick, MI, Rummer, JL

Latitude and body size are generally considered key drivers of swimming performance for larval marine fishes, but evidence suggests that evolutionary relationships and habitat may also be important. We used a comparative phylogenetic framework, data synthesis and case study approach to investigate how swimming performance differs among larvae of fish species across latitude. First, we investigated how swimming performance changed with body length, and we found that temperate reef fishes have the greatest increases in swimming performance with length. Secondly, we compared differences in three swimming performance metrics (critical swimming speed, in situ swimming, and endurance) among post-flexion larvae, whilst considering phylogenetic relationships and morphology, and we found that reef fishes have higher swimming capacity than non-reef (pelagic and non-reef demersal) fishes, which is likely due to larger, more robust body sizes. Thirdly, we compared swimming performance of late-stage larvae of tropical fishes with oceanographic data to better understand the ecological relevance of their high-capacity swimming. We found that reef fishes have high swimming performance and grow larger than non-reef fish larvae, which we suggest is due to the pressures to find a specific, patchily distributed habitat upon which to settle. Given the current bias towards studies on percomorph fishes at low latitudes, we highlight that there is a need for more research on temperate reef fish larvae and other percomorph lineages from high latitudes. Overall, our findings provide valuable context to understand how swimming and morphological traits that are important for dispersal and recruitment processes are selected for among teleost fish larvae.


Publication title

Fish and Fisheries










Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies


Blackwell Publishing Ltd

Place of publication

9600 Garsington Rd, Oxford, England, Oxon, Ox4 2Dg

Rights statement

© 2021 John Wiley & Sons Ltd.

Repository Status

  • Restricted

Socio-economic Objectives

Assessment and management of coastal and estuarine ecosystems