Project Title: The Ecology and Aspect of Biology of Amphioxus in Hong Kong

Applicant: City University of Hong Kong

Total Approved Grant: $623,265.16

Duration: 15/6/2003 - 14/2/2006

Project Status/Remarks: Completed

To estimate the area extent of B. belcheri off Sai Kung Peninsula, study its ecology and biology, determine the genomic fingerprint of amphioxus population and formulate a conservation plan for protection of amphioxus. The project results could provide AFCD with valuable data for conservation planning and management purposes, raise public awareness of the existence of such an important marine animal in local waters, and be used as a showcase to demonstrate the need in protection of the diversity of marine resources in Hong Kong.

Summary of the Findings/Outcomes:
In Hong Kong, 5 species of amphioxus have been identified in this study, based on morphological characters. These include Branchiostoma belcheri, B. belcheri tsingtauense, B. malayanum, Epigonichthys culltellus and E. lucayanus. B. belcheri is most common, accounting for over two-thirds of specimens recorded, where as B. belcheri tsingtauense and B. malayanum account for less than one-sixths of the specimens collected. Only few specimens of E. culltellus and E. lucayanus have been obtained. Details of the ecology (population dynamics, habitat requirements and benthic community structure) and biology (feeding and reproduction) have been investigated. Further genetic analyses of the major local Branchiostoma populations with those from Xiamen and Qingdao revealed that our local Branchiostoma populations have the highest within-population genetic diversity. In view of the requirements for a stable environment with high salinity and low turbidity for the survival of amphioxus and the high genetic diversity within local populations, it warrants to consider designating the Tai Long Wan coastal waters as a Site for Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), as part of a conservation plan for protection of these animals.

Objectives achieved:
All the following objectives as proposed in this study were achieved successfully as shown by the detailed information provided in the Final Report.

  • Estimation of the area extent (distribution and abundance) of B. belcheri off Sai Kung Peninsula,
  • Study of ecology of B. belcheri (population dynamics, association with other benthic animals, environmental factors controlling its distribution),
  • Study of aspects of biology of B. belcheri (feeding preference, gonadal development),
  • Determination of the genomic fingerprint of the local B. belcheri population,
  • Formulation of a conservation plan for B. belcheri in Hong Kong.