Coral colony size and structure as determinants of habitat use and fitness of coral-dwelling fishes

Cipresso Pereira, Pedro Henrique Cipresso, and Munday, Philip L. (2016) Coral colony size and structure as determinants of habitat use and fitness of coral-dwelling fishes. Marine Ecology Progress Series, 553. pp. 163-172.

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Competition for space affects patterns of habitat use and individual performance of coral-dwelling fishes; however, the physical attributes of corals that influence habitat preferences are uncertain. In this study, we investigated the influence of coral colony size and branching structure of 2 coral species, Acropora nasuta and Acropora spathulata, on habitat use and growth rate of 2 coral gobies, Gobiodon histrio and G. erythrospilus. First, we examined 2 key aspects of coral colony structure (interbranch depth and interbranch width) that may influence habitat preferences. We then used laboratory and field-based experiments to test the effects of coral species, coral colony size and branching structure on habitat preference and growth rates of G. histrio and G. erythrospilus. The preferred coral species, A. nasuta, had smaller interbranch width than A. spathulata. A binary-choice laboratory experiment demonstrated that both goby species preferred coral colonies with smaller interbranch width, except when they had the opportunity to occupy A. nasuta over A. spathulata. A field transplant experiment showed that both goby species grew faster on larger coral colonies and in colonies with smaller interbranch width. G. erythrospilus grew faster than G. histrio on A. spathulata, indicating that it suffers less fitness loss when occupying this alternative habitat. Our results show that coral physical attributes are important factors driving habitat preference of coral-dwelling gobies; however, there must also be additional factors that influence their habitat use. Declining average coral size and reduced habitat complexity on coral reefs could have significant impacts on the performance of fishes, affecting ecological processes such as competition.

Item ID: 46106
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1616-1599
Keywords: habitat complexity, competition, growth rate, goby, Gobiodon spp., Acropora spp.
Funders: Australian Research Council (ARC) Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, Conselho Nacional de Desenvolvimento Científico e Tecnológico, Brazil (CNPq)
Date Deposited: 19 Oct 2016 07:36
FoR Codes: 41 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES > 4104 Environmental management > 410499 Environmental management not elsewhere classified @ 50%
31 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 3103 Ecology > 310305 Marine and estuarine ecology (incl. marine ichthyology) @ 50%
SEO Codes: 96 ENVIRONMENT > 9605 Ecosystem Assessment and Management > 960507 Ecosystem Assessment and Management of Marine Environments @ 100%
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