Reef relationships and fish families
The way in which we view the Great Barrier Reef and its relationship to the rest of the world may be much broader than we had ever thought. Recent studies show that fish families living right here on the reef might be related to fish families living in other reefs all over the world. They have sometimes travelled thousands of kilometres to end up right where they are, and here's how.
Fish larvae, which are the offspring of a mated pair of fish, are expelled as youth to make their way across the oceans. However, it's recently been discovered that they travel a lot further than we ever thought.
Scientists can track where certain families of fish originate based on their DNA, and have found that reefs all over the world are even more closely connected then we have ever realized before.
Many fish species hatch their eggs and the larvae are released out into the big blue, to be taken by the tides and travel the seas to find their own home. The ‘Finding Nemo’ fairytale is a little less true, where the male only guards the eggs until they hatch and then away they go. The larvae, which are transparent will float and flow with the ebb of the ocean, until they begin to develop colour and scurry their way into the shelter of a reef (often far from home) where they can hide out until they are bigger and ready to move into a more permanent home.
This means that parents and their offspring can end up hundreds of kilometres apart, with parents living in Papua New Guinea and children settled in the Great Barrier Reef and beyond. This further proves that the health of any one reef can affect of many other reefs. Larvae and fish families are spread all over, connecting each reef closely and much more intimately than we ever thought, meaning we have to think at a much more global scale when it comes to reef conservation and management.