Friday, 27 October 2006

Tags follow 'Nemo' fish to home

Scuba Diving Fiji

An adult orange clownfish (Science and S.R. Thorrold)
About 60% of the young orange clownfish found their way home

The remarkable homing instincts of some coral reef fish have been revealed.

A team tagged two species of reef fish larvae to see where the juveniles were going after spending weeks and even months maturing in open sea.

It found most of the orange clownfish - made famous by the Finding Nemo movie - and vagabond butterflyfish returned to the reef where they had first hatched.

Writing in the journal Science, the team said the discovery could have implications for marine protection.

'Marine fish lay very small eggs, and when they do, they are released into the water column,' explained co-author Professor Geoff Jones from James Cook University in Queensland, Australia.

'They develop into a really tiny little larvae that we think drift around in the water currents, sometimes for months.

'The missing link in our understanding of coral reef fish has always been: where do the larvae go?'

Help from Mum

But until now, finding this out has been extremely tricky - attaching tags to miniscule larvae is not an easy task.

So the international team of researchers tackled the problem by getting the mother to help.

Satellite image of the Kimbe Island (Science)
The study "