Exploring the larval fish community of the central Red Sea with an integrated morphological and molecular approach

Stamatina Isari, John K. Pearman, Laura Casas Castano, Craig Michell, Joao Curdia, Michael L. Berumen, Xabier Irigoien

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Scopus citations


An important aspect of population dynamics for coral reef fishes is the input of new individuals from the pelagic larval pool. However, the high biodiversity and the difficulty of identifying larvae of closely related species represent obstacles to more fully understanding these populations. In this study, we combined morphology and genetic barcoding (Cytochrome Oxidase I gene) to characterize the seasonal patterns of the larval fish community at two sites in close proximity to coral reefs in the central-north Red Sea: one shallower inshore location (50 m depth) and a nearby site located in deeper and more offshore waters (~ 500 m depth). Fish larvae were collected using oblique tows of a 60 cm-bongo net (500 μm mesh size) every month for one year (2013). During the warmer period of the year (June-November), the larval fish stock was comparable between sampling sites. However, during the colder months, abundances were higher in the inshore than in the offshore waters. Taxonomic composition and temporal variation of community structure differed notably between sites, potentially reflecting habitat differences, reproductive patterns of adults, and/or advective processes in the area. Eleven out of a total of 62 recorded families comprised 69–94% of the fish larval community, depending on sampling site and month. Richness of taxa was notably higher in the inshore station compared to the offshore, particularly during the colder period of the year and especially for the gobiids and apogonids. Two mesopelagic taxa (Vinciguerria sp. and Benthosema spp.) comprised an important component of the larval community at the deeper site with only a small and sporadic occurrence in the shallower inshore waters. Our data provide an important baseline reference for the larval fish communities of the central Red Sea, representing the first such study from Saudi Arabian waters.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)e0182503
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 3 2017

Bibliographical note

KAUST Repository Item: Exported on 2020-10-01
Acknowledgements: The research was supported by baseline funding provided by King Abdullah University of Science and Technology to XI. SI was co-funded by the Red Sea Research Center Competitive Funding project (CCF). The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish or preparation of the manuscript. The authors thank Arwa Aynousah for assistance in the laboratory work and Ioannis Georga-kakis and Francis Mallon for assistance in the field work. We are also thankful to the editor Dr. H. M. Patterson and two anonymous reviewers for their corrections and constructive comments on the manuscript.


Dive into the research topics of 'Exploring the larval fish community of the central Red Sea with an integrated morphological and molecular approach'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this