Coral reef fish populations can persist without immigration

Océane C. Salles, Jeffrey A. Maynard, Marc Joannides, Corentin M. Barbu, Pablo Saenz-Agudelo, Glenn R. Almany, Michael L. Berumen, Simon R. Thorrold, Geoffrey P. Jones, Serge Planes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Determining the conditions under which populations may persist requires accurate estimates of demographic parameters, including immigration, local reproductive success, and mortality rates. In marine populations, empirical estimates of these parameters are rare, due at least in part to the pelagic dispersal stage common to most marine organisms. Here, we evaluate population persistence and turnover for a population of orange clownfish, Amphiprion percula, at Kimbe Island in Papua New Guinea. All fish in the population were sampled and genotyped on five occasions at 2-year intervals spanning eight years. The genetic data enabled estimates of reproductive success retained in the same population (reproductive success to self-recruitment), reproductive success exported to other subpopulations (reproductive success to local connectivity), and immigration and mortality rates of sub-adults and adults. Approximately 50% of the recruits were assigned to parents from the Kimbe Island population and this was stable through the sampling period. Stability in the proportion of local and immigrant settlers is likely due to: low annual mortality rates and stable egg production rates, and the short larval stages and sensory capacities of reef fish larvae. Biannual mortality rates ranged from 0.09 to 0.55 and varied significantly spatially. We used these data to parametrize a model that estimated the probability of the Kimbe Island population persisting in the absence of immigration. The Kimbe Island population was found to persist without significant immigration. Model results suggest the island population persists because the largest of the subpopulations are maintained due to having low mortality and high self-recruitment rates. Our results enable managers to appropriately target and scale actions to maximize persistence likelihood as disturbance frequencies increase.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)20151311
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1819
StatePublished - Nov 18 2015


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