Damselfish: Location, Location, Location

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ambience: waves, gentle ocean

Imagine you’re a fish and you’re looking for a home in the clear blue waters off Barbados. Would you stay close to the shore or venture further out? The male damselfish chooses a home in much the same way humans do: location, location, location. I’m Jim Metzner and this is Pulse of the Planet. But what makes a location desirable to a fish? Suzanne Dorsey is an assistant professor of biology at Salem College in North Carolina. She studies the effect of habitat on the reproductive life of the bi-color damselfish.

“My hypothesis at the beginning was that the inshore site is subjected to more pollution, it’s subjected to wave action, which can have a major effect on how these organisms reproduce; and other factors such as tourists standing on a reef and things like that disrupt reproduction. And I hypothesize that the inshore reef would in fact, have a lower reproductive rate than the offshore reef, which is relatively pristine. In fact, that’s not true. There’s about a 60 per cent lower reproductive output at the offshore reef.”

Suzanne Dorsey’s next research challenge is to figure out why this is the case.

“My hypothesis is that offshore may be more pristine, but it also has more predators available. So now the fish are faced with looking over their shoulder every time they’re trying to reproduce, or if a male is courting a female he’s also got to look over his shoulder and make sure there’s not a grouper there looking to him for lunch.”

Suzanne Dorsey is hoping her work will help build the body of knowledge about offshore habitats — useful information for fisheries and nature reserves around the world.

Pulse of the Planet is presented with support provided by the National Science Foundation.

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Damselfish: Location, Location, Location

Damselfish are a discerning lot when it comes to selecting a "home".
Air Date:10/13/2004
Scientist:
Transcript:


music
ambience: waves, gentle ocean

Imagine you’re a fish and you’re looking for a home in the clear blue waters off Barbados. Would you stay close to the shore or venture further out? The male damselfish chooses a home in much the same way humans do: location, location, location. I’m Jim Metzner and this is Pulse of the Planet. But what makes a location desirable to a fish? Suzanne Dorsey is an assistant professor of biology at Salem College in North Carolina. She studies the effect of habitat on the reproductive life of the bi-color damselfish.

"My hypothesis at the beginning was that the inshore site is subjected to more pollution, it’s subjected to wave action, which can have a major effect on how these organisms reproduce; and other factors such as tourists standing on a reef and things like that disrupt reproduction. And I hypothesize that the inshore reef would in fact, have a lower reproductive rate than the offshore reef, which is relatively pristine. In fact, that’s not true. There’s about a 60 per cent lower reproductive output at the offshore reef."

Suzanne Dorsey’s next research challenge is to figure out why this is the case.

"My hypothesis is that offshore may be more pristine, but it also has more predators available. So now the fish are faced with looking over their shoulder every time they’re trying to reproduce, or if a male is courting a female he’s also got to look over his shoulder and make sure there’s not a grouper there looking to him for lunch."

Suzanne Dorsey is hoping her work will help build the body of knowledge about offshore habitats -- useful information for fisheries and nature reserves around the world.

Pulse of the Planet is presented with support provided by the National Science Foundation.

music