PerspectiveEcology

Do tiny fish rule the reefs?

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Science  21 Jun 2019:
Vol. 364, Issue 6446, pp. 1128-1130
DOI: 10.1126/science.aax8961

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Summary

Coral reef fishes are famous for their fantastic colors and forms. Easily overlooked are the cryptic and diminutive (cryptobenthic) bottom-dwelling fishes that also call coral reefs home. By linking empirical data and ecosystem modeling, Brandl et al. (1), on page 1189 of this issue, propose that pelagic (open-water) larvae of cryptobenthic fishes and their small juveniles that recently settled on reefs constitute a key food source for other reef residents. Such a scenario could help explain why coral reefs in nutrient-poor waters teem with life.