Accumulation of Morphological Disparity through the Ontogeny of Coral Reef Wrasse(Family: Labridae)

The marine family of Labridae (Wrasse) are a highly morphologically and ecologically diverse group. Not only is this prolific family the most speciose family in indo-pacific coral reefs, but it also includes some of the largest and most prominent fishes in the Gulf of Aqaba. As they are immensely trophically diverse, many of labrids are keystone species, occupying a variety of niches in the coral reef and contribute greatly to maintaining the delicate equilibrium of a thriving ecosystem.

However, while the adults of this family are one of the most extensively documented fish families worldwide, not much is known about their larvae and ontogenetic development. This major gap in our knowledge centres on the planktonic life phase and the transformation to adults trough metamorphosis. This stage is highly important as it defines the population dynamics; structure, size, species composition and the connectivity between reefs.

Through my research I intent on addressing these gaps in taxonomical and ecological knowledge of local labrids species by a survey of species composition and relative abundance in plankton. Additionally, I will focus on the changes in the trophic related morphological characteristics development that accompanies the transition from larvae to adults. This grant will allow me to learn to identify the larvae from this important group and improve our current knowledge about this obscure stage.