In four lagoons at two atolls and one high island in the Tuamotu and Society Islands, French Polynesia, plankton samples were taken weekly during 4 weeks in January/February 1989. A third atoll lagoon was sampled once. The lagoons varied in size and physical openness. We also sampled in the ocean near two atolls and the high island. All locations were sampled during the day, and three lagoons (two atolls and one high island) were also sampled at night. Pelagic fish eggs were more abundant in the ocean than in the lagoons at the atolls, but not at the high island. Larvae of coastal fishes were abundant in all lagoons. In the atoll lagoons, larvae of oceanic fishes were very rare to absent, but in the high-island lagoons and in the ocean, they were commonly encountered. In the ocean, larvae of many typical reef-fish taxa were abundant (58 taxa were represented by at least 10 individuals), but in the lagoons, most of these were rare or absent, and we conclude that these rare and absent taxa normally do not complete their larval phase in lagoons.
Taxa were considered to be able to complete their pelagic phase in a lagoon (i.e., were ''completers'') if they were present in the lagoon plankton samples from across a full larval size range. In the high-island barrier-reef lagoon, young, preflexion larvae were abundant, but only two taxa (of 56 captured) were present over a wide size range and were considered completers in this lagoon. In the high-island lagoonal bay, 11 taxa (of 67 captured) were considered completers. The numbers of taxa captured in the three atoll lagoons ranged from 39–44, and the number of taxa considered to be completers increased with increasing lagoon size and physical openness. The 17 completer taxa in the smallest, most enclosed atoll lagoon were, with one exception, a subset of those (18) in the second lagoon which, in turn, with one exception, were a subset of those in the largest, most open lagoon (26). Completer taxa were of the families Apogonidae, Blenniidae, Bothidae, Callionymidae, Carangidae, Gobiidae, Microdesmidae, Mullidae, Pomacentridae, Schindleriidae, and Tetraodontidae. The species that can complete their pelagic periods in coral-reef lagoons are a highly predictable group, and not simply a random selection of the potential species pool. Most of these species hatch from non-pelagic eggs. Water renewal times in the atoll lagoons, unlike the high-island barrier-reef lagoon, were much longer than expected pelagic larval durations of completer taxa. Demographically, lagoon populations of completer taxa apparently self-recruit and are probably near the closed end of the open/closed population continuum. The lagoonal bay on the high island differs from the other lagoons in containing larvae of species not found elsewhere, including some completers, and lacking some species that are abundant completers in other lagoons. In French Polynesia, lagoon size is a strong predictor of the number of lagoon completer taxa. The number of completer taxa apparently peaks at intermediate lagoon water-exchange times.
Keywords Coral-reef - Lagoon - Fish - Larva - Self-recruitment - Demography