Abstract: Habitats are degrading worldwide and such change leads to a major loss of biodiversity. This talk will summaries our recent research that explores how the degradation of coral reefs affects how fish assess risk. For fish that closely associate with live coral, the loss of live coral nearby can modify important olfactory cues that indicate risk, alter how they learn the identity of predators and their ability to pass this information to other. These fish are no longer able to develop a neophobic, risk averse, phenotype and die much faster than when not affected by cues from degraded coral. Luckily, they can still learn risk from other non-affected species, but this learning mechanism not as efficient as learning first hand and leads to reduced survival. Determining the mechanisms that underlie why some species are affected while others are not will improve our understanding of species resilience to coral degradation.
Biography: Professor Mark McCormick has been studying fish communities on temperate and tropical reefs for 30 years, and is a world expert on the early life history of fishes, producing over 200 research papers. He has been funded extensively through the Australian Research Council to examine the processes that regulate the numbers and distribution of fishes on today’s reefs, and those we may see in the future. His research has focused on the interconnections between fish life-stages; from how environmental change affects parents and their larval offspring, through to who survives the gauntlet of mouths as the larvae return to reefs to become breeding members of the fish community. His current research projects involve determining the impact of habitat degradation and anthropogenic noise on fish communities.