Bonefish Dive 450 Feet “Deep” Into the Abyss to Spawn

Novel Deep-Water Spawning Patterns of Shallow Water Bonefish

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Once at the pre-spawning place, bonefish collect in big groups typically numbering anywhere from 5,000 to 10,000 bonefish. Credit: Captain Tom Henshilwood

A brand-new research study supplies the very first in-depth documents of a shallow water fish diving 450 feet deep to generate. Uncovering this really unusual spawning habits in bonefish (Albula vulpes) is extraordinary. Using active acoustic telemetry and finder information along the southern coast of Abaco, The Bahamas, a group of researchers led by Florida Atlantic University’s Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute in cooperation with Bonefish & Tarpon Trust, and University of Massachusetts Amherst, has actually found that although bonefish reside in shallow waters less than 6 feet, they dive “deep” into the void to generate.

While previous research study in 2013 revealed that bonefish came down roughly 164 feet to generate, this brand-new clinical finding exposes that bonefish came down to depths reaching 450 feet, and moved below 325 feet for 2 hours prior to generating in a rush up to 220 feet deep. Findings from the research study, released in the journal Marine Biology, will contribute for preservation efforts for this financially and culturally crucial fish types.

“We were stunned by this discovery because the bonefish moved out beyond the incredibly abrupt and steep shelf drop off into the Providence Channel in Abaco,” stated Steven Lombardo, very first author and a Ph.D. prospect who deals with Matt Ajemian, Ph.D., senior author, an assistant research study teacher at FAU’s Harbor Branch and head of the Fisheries Ecology and Conservation (FEC) Lab. “Data from our acoustic telemetry tags showed us in real time that bonefish were capable of handling extreme pressures. When they reached 334 feet in the first dive, we were floored, and 45 minutes later when they reached 450 feet deep, we were absolutely astonished.”

Scientists have actually found that although bonefish reside in shallow waters less than 6 feet, they dive “deep” into the void to generate. Now that they understand the conditions bonefish need to generate they can much better focus their efforts for environment preservation. Credit: Aaron Adams, Ph.D.

Active acoustic telemetry allowed the researchers to observe the generating motions and is an approach that utilizes little pill-like tags that are surgically implanted into the fish’s stomach cavity, releasing an ultrasonic ping every 3 seconds. Researchers listened for the pings released from the tags utilizing a boat-mounted directional hydrophone, utilizing the strength of the signal interacted from the tag to the hydrophone to identify what instructions to move the boat and follow the fish. Each ping transferred by the tag inside the fish passed on information to the researchers, notifying them of the depth of the fish’s place and the water temperature level.

The scientists invested 4 days from dawn to sunset observing the bonefish pre-spawning aggregation in hopes that they would move offshore to generate. At sundown on the last arranged night of their research study cruise, bonefish started “porpoising,” where they gulped air at the surface area, and after that continued to move offshore following the edge of the continental rack. The effective observation of bonefish spawning topped an 18-hour shift on the water, covering 2 days.

“Following the bonefish on their offshore spawning migration was a marathon for the science team as well as the fish,” stated Aaron Adams, Ph.D., co-author, senior researcher at FAU’s Harbor Branch and director of science and preservation at Bonefish & Tarpon Trust. “Most importantly for conservation, now that we know the conditions bonefish require to spawn we can better focus our efforts for habitat conservation.”

When lots of types of seaside marine fish generate, they generate in groups referred to as generating aggregations, which are combined males and women. These fishes follow a procedure referred to as “broadcast spawning” in which the males and women eject sperm and eggs into the open water where the eggs are fertilized. The eggs hatch in about a day, and the small larvae that hatch from the eggs reside in the open ocean as plankton for days to months, depending upon the types, prior to discovering shallow water and ending up being juveniles. Adults of much of these types move cross countries from their house varieties to generating areas, typically generating on the edges of reefs surrounding to deep water.

Unlike other seaside marine fishes, the bonefish takes part in a unique three-point spawning migration, taking a trip approximately 70 miles from shallow water house flats to form nearshore pre-spawning aggregations prior to moving offshore to recreate. Once at the pre-spawning place, they collect in big groups typically numbering anywhere from 5,000 to 10,000 bonefish.

“Despite their economic and cultural importance, there are concerns about the long-term health of the bonefish fishery. Because of habitat loss and harvest in some locations, bonefish are classified as ‘Near Threatened,’ therefore information on their reproduction is critical to conservation efforts,” stated Ajemian. “We are continuing our work on the offshore spawning movements of bonefish. We will be observing more spawning events at different locations and also will characterize what larval bonefish may be feeding on at these great depths.”

This research study will support the continuous efforts of the Bonefish Reproduction Research Project at FAU’s Harbor Branch, notifying methods utilized to rear slave generated bonefish larvae through the feeding stage of advancement and beyond.


Bonefish are world popular for their speed and battle on a light deal with, and assistance financially and culturally crucial fisheries throughout the tropics. The yearly financial effects of the fishery surpass $465 million in the Florida Keys, $169 million in The Bahamas, and $53 million in Belize. On much of the Bahamian islands, the fishery represent roughly 40 percent of the economy, where the task of fishing guide is typically amongst the greatest paying and the profession is typically passed along household lines.

Reference: “Novel deep-water spawning patterns of bonefish (Albula vulpes), a shallow water fish” by Steven M. Lombardo, Aaron J. Adams, Andy J. Danylchuk, Cameron A. Luck and Matthew J. Ajemian, 23 November 2020, Marine Biology.
DOI: 10.1007/s00227-020-03799-3

Study co-authors are Andy J. Danylchuk, Ph.D., Department of Environmental Conservation, University of Massachusetts Amherst; and Cameron A. Luck, M.S., an FAU graduate and a preservation biologist at North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality.

Funding for this research study was offered by Bonefish & Tarpon Trust and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. The work was carried out under The Bahamas Department of Marine Resources (authorization: MA&MR/FIS/17).