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A fruitful visit to fish larval laboratory in Taiwan (pdf)

by Anna Situ

While working on the taxonomic composition of fish larvae in Cape d’Aguilar Marine Reserve, I found that there are scarce records, studies and literature on the diversity and abundance of fish larvae in Hong Kong, and no local fish larvae experts. In September 2005, I visited Professor Chiu Tai-Sheng’s laboratory at National Taiwan University in Taipei to get training on fish larvae identification under his supervision.

Professor Chiu (Fig. 1) is in charge of the Economic Fish Laboratory in the Institute of Zoology under College of Life Science in National Taiwan University

(http://zoology.lifescience.ntu.edu.tw/english/index.htm). His research focuses on the ecology of larval fishes and fisheries genetics. Being the first one to examine species composition and distribution of fish larvae in Taiwan, Professor Chiu has made extensive contributions to larval biology and ecology since the 1980s, including the establishment of a systematic collection of over 50,000 specimens, a database of the geographical distribution of all species around Taiwan, and publication on fish larvae of Taiwan (Chiu, 1999). Currently, his research team (1 post-doctoral fellow, 4 postgraduate students and 2 technicians) concentrates their work on using molecular techniques to investigate the population structure of mackerel, anchovy, ribbonfish and squids.

Fig.1. With Professor Chiu and all lab mates

During my two-week visit, I was trained with techniques in larval identification and learned about the morphological features of different families and procedures of larval staining and illustration (Figs. 2 & 3). Larval staining clears the body tissues of fish and stains the vertebrae and fin rays with a series of chemicals; counts of the numbers of the two structures are often essential characters for identification to genus and species level. I learnt a lot from the rich experience of Professor Chiu’s laboratory and got good background knowledge for my project. After verification of my previous identification, I found over 40 families (out of about 100 families recorded in Hong Kong), and at least 84 species of fish larvae recorded in my eight-month samples from Cape d’Aguilar.

From the visit, I was impressed that the Taiwanese government has put much effort into marine resources research. At the National Taiwan University, I found many on-going projects on marine resources around Taiwan. There are three departments, namely: Institute of Zoology; Institute of Fishery Biology; and Institute of Oceanography that conduct research on a wide variety of habitats and taxa. They also offer a wide range of courses to undergraduate and postgraduate students such as Ecology of Early Life Fish, Fish Diseases, and Ecology of Plankton. I believe that investment in such research and training are also needed in Hong Kong if the government intends to set up a long-term management plan for the sustainable use of local fisheries and other marine resources.

Besides a good experience in laboratory, I also had a great tour around Taipei’s night markets! I would like to thank Dr. Sadovy for the funding, and Professor Chiu and all lab mates in his lab for their generosity in hosting my visit.


Chiu, T.S. (1999). The larvae of fishes in Taiwan. National Museum of Marine Biology and Aquarium. 296pp.

Fig.2. The lab in National Taiwan University I worked in.

Fig. 3. A croaker (Sciaenidae) larva drawn by Anna Situ and Vivian Fu.



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