Alien Babies: To’au in He’eia Mangroves

While I was seining with the LAIP interns this past summer, we came across some interesting fish living near the mangroves. While some of the fish and nearly all the invertebrates we’ve seen are species that may spend their entire lives in the pond (the half-spotted goby, for example, or Podopthalmus vigil, the Hawai’ian swimming crab), others are transient. Many Hawai’ian fishponds are strategically placed at the mouths of streams because highly productive, protected estuaries are important nursery grounds. As the fishpond wisdom goes, tiny fish and food go in, larger fish can’t escape, and voilà: a productive and low-impact fishery. Fishponds like He’eia can attract juvenile reef fish in addition to traditional food fish, making for a diverse and colorful community of juveniles. Above is a juvenile to’au (Lutjanus fulvus) we caught in the mangroves by one of the river makaha. To’au are an alien snapper species found in abundance on Hawai’ian reefs, and mangrove is the most importnat nursery habitat for members of the same family (Lutjanidae) (Nagelkerken et al. 2000). This shows that even in their introduced range, they can utilize the same nursery habitats–a kind of home away from home. L. fulvus is efficient at colonizing new areas (genetic evidence here) though these fish are not necessarily invasive; more on this important distinction later.

Mahalo nui to Jack Randall, Senior Ichthyologist at the Bishop Museum for help with the

Nagelkerken, I. (2000). Importance of Mangroves, Seagrass Beds and the Shallow Coral Reef as a Nursery for Important Coral Reef Fishes, Using a Visual Census TechniqueEstuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science, 51 (1), 31-44 DOI: 10.1006/ecss.2000.0617

More on L. fulvus and its range in the Indo-Pacific:
Gaither, M., Toonen, R., Robertson, D., Planes, S., & Bowen, B. (2009). Genetic evaluation of marine biogeographical barriers: perspectives from two widespread Indo-Pacific snappers (Lutjanus kasmira and Lutjanus fulvus) Journal of Biogeography, 37 (1), 133-147 DOI: 10.1111/j.1365-2699.2009.02188.x

One Response to “Alien Babies: To’au in He’eia Mangroves”
  1. Whoa! This blog looks exactly like my old one!

    It’s on a totally different subject but it has pretty much the same page layout and design. Wonderful choice of colors!

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  • Mahalo Nui Loa

    I recently graduated from the Donahue Lab at the University of Hawai'i at Manoa and am currently a graduate student at the University of Washington. This research is funded by a Graduate Research Fellowship from the National Science Foundation, as well a scholarship from the Seattle chapter of the Achievement Rewards for College Scientists (ARCS) Foundation.
  • “Where do ecological ideas come from? …Most do not spring deductively from the minds of ecologists, like Athena from the head of Zeus. Instead, they emerge when ecologists absorb the essential spirit of individual places– their genius loci.”

    ~Mary V. Price & Ian Billick, "The Ecology of Place"
  • “Aloha is the intelligence with which we meet life.”

    ~Olana A'i, Kumu Hula

  • “I no longer say ‘Hawaiian ways of knowing’ anymore. Because people relegate that to the margins. ‘Ways of knowing,’ as if it’s a quaint, anthropologic way of describing something outside us. No, it’s ‘epistemology,’ the philosophy of knowledge. Land educates. ‘Ike ‘aina. The land of your birth educates you. This land here educates you.”

    ~Manu Meyer

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