Snorkeling with juvenile fish in Raja Ampat
During CTA’s recent exploration of Raja Ampat we came across numerous reef-associated habitats where seemingly millions of juvenile fish thronged. What species were represented among the youngsters was difficult to ascertain since many of the tiny fish were semi-translucent and had not fully metamorphosed into recognizable shapes and color patterns. How fish recruit to particular reefs and other marine habitats is intriguing and plays a large role in why some areas are incredibly diverse while others are deficient in fish diversity. Ocean currents, storms, predators, and luck all contribute to the nearly impossible feat of surviving the open ocean long enough to make it on the reef. And once on the reef, the real trouble begins. Where open ocean predators are vicious, they are also few and far between compared to the reef. An exponential increase in the number of predators mostly in the form of sessile invertebrates await the new recruits on the reef. It’ll take more of that luck and a bit of on-the-job experience to survive into adulthood. Whatever the case, it was astounding to drift among so many juvenile reef fish in Raja Ampat and to know that the reefs are likely to be well stocked in this area for years to come.