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Standing out from the crowd: Spotting your targets in a mixed plankton sample


The diversity of marine organisms is staggering, and this fact is readily appreciated by microscopic examination of the contents of a plankton net after a short tow across the ocean surface. Although this diversity is beautiful, it can present a significant problem for those seeking to extract information about a single species of interest. Enumeration of the eggs and larvae of a specific target species can provide a quantitative window into reproductive dynamics that are of great use for fisheries stock assessment and management. But how do you efficiently sort through the mass of plankton and identify target species' eggs and larvae that may be morphologically indistinguishable from those of a number of other local species? In this issue of Molecular Ecology Resources, Oxley et al. () describe an innovative in situ hybridization (ISH) approach that successfully solves this important problem and opens an exciting new avenue to ichthyoplankton analysis that may be widely adopted by both fish ecologists and fisheries managers.

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