• damselfish;
  • development;
  • growth;
  • larva;
  • Pomacentridae;
  • sense organs

Morphological development of the larvae of the Ambon damselfish Pomacentrus amboinensis from the Great Barrier Reef, Australia, is described from 34 reared specimens (2·5–13·0 mm standard length), and two wild settlement-stage larvae (10·8–11·3 mm) captured in light traps. Reared larvae emerged from demersal eggs at c. 2·5 mm, underwent notochord flexion at 4·0–4·5 mm, and settled at 11–13 mm at 19–21 days after hatching (within the known range for wild larvae). Reared larvae grew at 0·3 mm day−1 (preflexion) to 0·5 mm day−1 (postflexion). Development was direct with few specializations for pelagic existence and was typical of pomacentrids. Head spination consisted of very weak spines on the preopercle, opercle, interopercle, subopercle and supracleithrum. Development of the olfactory system and retina are also described. A summary of published descriptions of early life-history stages of pomacentrid damselfishes is provided (n= 15% of known species). Larvae of several genera (e.g. Abudefduf, Chromis and Stegastes) are deeper-bodied and more ‘hunchbacked’ than P. amboinensis. Larvae of other genera (e.g. Amblyglyphidodon, Chrysiptera and Neoglyphidodon) are similar to P. amboinensis. Larvae of only three other Pomacentrus species have been described, and they are similar to P. amboinensis in body morphology, pigmentation and head spination.