Surface Slicks Are Open Ocean Nurseries for Diverse Ocean Fauna
Here, we provide evidence that surface slicks, provide nursery habitat for diverse marine larvae, including more than 100 species of commercially and ecologically important fishes.
Most marine animals have a pelagic larval phase that develops in the coastal or open ocean. The fate of larvae has profound effects on replenishment of marine populations that are critical for human and ecosystem health.
Larval ecology is expected to be tightly coupled to oceanic features, but for most taxa we know little about the interactions between larvae and the pelagic environment.
Here, we provide evidence that surface slicks, a common coastal convergence feature, provide nursery habitat for diverse marine larvae, including > 100 species of commercially and ecologically important fishes.
Results indicate late-larval fishes actively select slick habitats to capitalize on concentrations of diverse prey and shelter. By providing these survival advantages, surface slicks enhance larval supply and replenishment of adult populations from coral reef, epipelagic, and deep-water ecosystems. Our findings suggest that slicks play a critically important role in enhancing productivity in tropical marine ecosystems.
Whitney JL, Gove JM, McManus MA, Smith KA, Lecky J, Neubauer P, Phipps JE, Contreras EA, Kobayashi DR, Asner GP. 2021. Surface slicks are pelagic nurseries for diverse ocean fauna. Scientific Reports. 11(1):1-8. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-021-81407-0.