Synergistic effects of habitat preference and gregarious behaviour on habitat use in coral reef cardinalfish

Gardiner, N.M., and Jones, G.P. (2010) Synergistic effects of habitat preference and gregarious behaviour on habitat use in coral reef cardinalfish. Coral Reefs, 29 (4). pp. 845-856.

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Spatial distributions of coral reef fish species are potentially determined by habitat preferences and behavioural interactions. However, the relative importance of these factors and whether or not behavioural interactions reinforce or disrupt habitat associations are poorly understood. This paper explores the degree to which habitat and social preferences explain the association that three common coral reef cardinalfish species (Zoramia leptacanthus, Archamia zosterophora and Cheilodipterus quinquelineatus; family Apogonidae) have with coral substrata at Lizard Island, Great Barrier Reef. At diurnal resting sites, species were strongly associated with branching corals, with 80–90% of each species inhabiting one branching coral species, Porites cylindrica. Species were also highly gregarious, forming large con-specific and hetero-specific aggregations in coral heads, potentially reinforcing habitat associations. Three-way choice experiments were conducted to test fishes habitat preferences for living coral over dead substrata, for particular coral species, and the influence of gregarious behaviour on these habitat choices. The strength of habitat preferences differed among species, with Z. leptacanthus preferring live coral and P. cylindrica, A. zosterophora preferring P. cylindrica, whether live or dead and C. quinquelineatus exhibiting no preferences. All species were attracted to conspecifics, and for C. quinquelineatus and A. zosterophora, conspecific attraction resulted in stronger preferences for live corals. Gregarious behaviour also increased C. quinquelineatus associations with P. cylindrica. The relative strength of social attraction versus habitat preferences was investigated by comparing fish habitat preferences in the presence and/or absence of conspecifics. The presence of conspecifics on non-preferred rubble habitat reduced each species association with live coral. This study’s results indicate that in the field, habitat preferences and conspecific attraction combine to reinforce the association between cardinalfishes and a narrow range of coral substrata.

Item ID: 16536
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1432-0975
Keywords: habitat preference; social preference; conspecific attraction; habitat specialisation; coral reef fish; groups
Date Deposited: 11 May 2011 00:27
FoR Codes: 06 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 0602 Ecology > 060201 Behavioural Ecology @ 50%
06 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 0602 Ecology > 060205 Marine and Estuarine Ecology (incl Marine Ichthyology) @ 50%
SEO Codes: 97 EXPANDING KNOWLEDGE > 970106 Expanding Knowledge in the Biological Sciences @ 100%
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