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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2001 May 8;98(10):5667-70. Epub 2001 May 1.

Population maintenance among tropical reef fishes: inferences from small-island endemics.

Author information

  • Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (Panamá), Unit 0948, APO AA 34002-0948. ross.robertson@stri.org


To what extent do local populations of tropical reef fishes persist through the recruitment of pelagic larvae to their natal reef? Endemics from small, isolated islands can help answer that question by indicating whether special biological attributes are needed for long-term survival under enforced localization in high-risk situations. Taxonomically and biologically, the endemics from seven such islands are broadly representative of their regional faunas. As natal-site recruitment occurs among reef fishes in much less isolated situations, these characteristics of island endemics indicate that a wide range of reef fishes could have persistent self-sustaining local populations. Because small islands regularly support substantial reef fish faunas, regional systems of small reserves could preserve much of the diversity of these fishes.

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