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Data from: Kin recognition in embryonic damselfishes


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Data from: Kin recognition in embryonic damselfishes
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  • All animals used were housed, and experiments were carried out, at the Marine and Aquaculture Research Facilities Unit, James Cook University, Australia.
  1. Type: full

    Data consists of a spreadsheet containing:

    Sheet 1 - Data for the percentage change in heart rate of Amphiprion melanopus embryos after introduction of one of six chemical cues.

    Sheet 2 - Data for the percentage change in heart rate of Acanthochromis polyacanthus embryos after introduction of one of six chemical cues.

    Sheet 3 - Pilot trial data comparing embryonic reactions to alarm cues produced from either fresh or frozen and defrosted embryos.

    Abstract [Related Publication]: Predator-induced mortality rates are highest in early life stages; therefore, early recognition of threats can greatly increase survival chances. Some species of coral reef fishes have been frequently found to recruit back to their natal reefs; in this instance, there is a high chance of juveniles encountering their siblings, among other kin, after hatching. Kin recognition plays an important ecological role in that it allows individuals to protect genetically similar relatives, and hence increase their inclusive fitness. By observing changes in heart rates, we demonstrated that embryos of two damselfish species, Acanthochromis polyacanthus and Amphiprion melanopus, not only possess recognition of kin and damage-released alarm odours, but also react to them in a graded manner. Such refined olfactory capabilities in embryonic stage organisms (seven and eleven days after fertilisation) suggest identification of threats may provide survival advantages post-hatching, such as the informed choice of low risk habitats at settlement. To our knowledge this is the first time that kin recognition has been identified in embryos of any species.

    Experimental procedure [Related Publication]: Trials were carried out on the day of hatching for A. melanopus and the day before hatching for Ac. polyacanthus. Change in heart rate was determined in response to one of the six olfactory cues previously outlined for both species. For each trial, one embryo was carefully placed in a small container of 10 ml of seawater, which was then placed under a dissecting microscope illuminated with an optic fibre cold light. This kept any heat from the light bulb well away from the observed embryos, and the temperature during observations was maintained at that of the water controlled holding tubs and parental tanks (28°C). The embryo was allowed to acclimatise for 2 min, after which the heart rate was directly recorded for a continuous 30 s by the same researcher to maintain consistency among trials. Mean baseline heart rate was 100 beats per 30 s for A. melanopus and 70 beats per 30 s for Ac. polyacanthus. The researcher then slowly injected 1 ml of one of the six recently prepared test cues into the container, and the heart rate was recorded for another 30 s. Each embryo was randomly assigned to, and tested with, only one of the six test odours. For A. melanopus, embryos were tested from five clutches produced by three breeding pairs (two pairs produced two clutches, and one pair produced one clutch), and for Ac. polyacanthus, embryos were tested from eight clutches obtained from seven breeding pairs (all pairs produced one clutch, except one which produced two clutches). Fifteen embryos from each clutch were tested per trial odour, for as many odours as possible, and for each species (Supplementary material Appendix 3 Table A3).



  2. Type: note

    This dataset is available from Dryad in MS Excel (.xlsx) format. Dryad data package: Atherton JA, McCormick MI (2017) Data from: Kin recognition in embryonic damselfishes. Dryad Digital Repository.

Related Publications
  1. Atherton, Jennifer Ann, and McCormick, Mark Ian (2017) Kin recognition in embryonic damselfishes. OIKOS, 126 (7). pp. 1062-1069.
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  1. Managed by: Miss Jennifer Atherton , , ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, College of Science & Engineering
  2. Associated with: Prof Mark McCormick , , ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, Marine Biology & Aquaculture
Primary Contact
Miss Jennifer Atherton,
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Fields of Research
  1. 060205 - Marine and Estuarine Ecology (incl. Marine Ichthyology) (060205)
Socio-Economic Objective
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  1. kin recognition
  2. chemical alarm clues
  3. threat-sensitive
  4. chemical alarm odours
  5. Acanthochromis polyacanthus
  6. Amphiprion melanopus
  7. ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies
Research Activity
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Research Themes
Tropical Ecosystems, Conservation and Climate Change
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License - Other
CC 0: Public Domain Dedication 1.0 Universal
Access Rights/Conditions
Open access. If the data is not freely accessible via the link provided, please contact the nominated data manager or for assistance.
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Atherton, J.; McCormick, M. (2017). Data from: Kin recognition in embryonic damselfishes. James Cook University. [Data Files] 3ce389d537ca8ff3895659fa193e3a12