In marine organisms, larval recruitment plays a major role in determining the structure and stability of adult populations due to high larval mortality (decrease of ninety per cent of larval population within two first post-recruitment months). A special attention is paid in determining whether this mortality acts indiscriminately, with all larvae having similar chance of being removed from the population, or whether any particular phenotype is susceptible to mortality. The project explores the concept of selective mortality in using two coral reef fish species (Chromis viridis and Dascyllus aruanus) as models. A cohort of each species (i.e. larvae that recruit over a short period of time) is followed on the first two post-recruitment months. Mortality is estimated by looking at the decrease in the population abundance of the cohort, and growth, skeletal transformations, gut contents, condition index, predator density and the prevalence parasites are also measured to gain insight into the causes of larval mortality. The topic of selective mortality can be conducted on any coral island.
The last December, a tsunami in South-Asia caused the dead of thousands of people and destroyed their coral ecosystem. So, Prof. Vandewalle (supervisor of project) and me have decided to sample fish at the South-eastern part (degraded site by tsunami) and South-western part (no degraded site) of Sri Lanka. Moreover, to conduct the project at a large spatial scale, fish are also sampled at Moorea Island (French Polynesia), a "pristine" coral ecosystem. The study is then carried out in a Belgium Laboratory with fish sampling at Moorea and Sri Lanka.
Overall, the project responds to the objectives of Marie Curie fellowship: individual needs for complementary training (Belgium Lab oratory - technique of digital morphometry) and completing the expertise of applicant (ecology of coral reef fish at Moorea vs. Sri Lanka).
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