Young fish and coral larvae can sniff out good and bad real estate, according to biologists at Georgia Institute of Technology and Zayed University in the United Arab Emirates. Following chemical cues, tropical fish and coral can avoid seaweed's stink, heading toward the home-sweet-home smell of healthy reefs.
In three marine protected areas off the coast of Fiji, Georgia Tech marine biologists Danielle Dixson and Mark Hay tested how some sea creatures decide where to live. They placed fish and free-swimming coral larvae in a tank split into two chambers - one filled with water from an environmentally degraded, seaweedy habitat, and the other filled with water from a healthy reef in a marine protected area.
Like retirees to the Sunshine State, the teensy coral and fish flocked to the side of the tank with reef water. The fish, comprising 15 different tropical species, were eight times more likely to prefer water from the protected area; five out of every six larvae, likewise, chose the water from coral reefs.