MEPS 295:229-244 (2005)  -  doi:10.3354/meps295229

Ocean surgeonfish Acanthurus bahianus. I. The geography of demography

D. R. Robertson1,*, J. L. Ackerman2, J. H. Choat2, J. M. Posada3, J. Pitt4

1Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (Panamá), STRI, Unit 0948, APO, AA 34002-0948, USA
2School of Marine Biology and Aquaculture, James Cook University, Townsville 4811, Australia
3Departamento de Biología de Organismos, Universidad Simón Bolívar, Apartado 89000, Caracas 1080-A, Venezuela
4Benthic Ecology Laboratory, Bermuda Biological Station for Research, Biological, Station Lane, GE-01, Ferry Reach, Bermuda
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ABSTRACT: The ocean surgeonfish Acanthurus bahianus is a common inhabitant of reefs throughout the west and central Atlantic. We examined geographic variation in its demography among 10 locations spanning 56° of latitude. These populations exhibit a great diversity of growth trajectories, as well as 3-fold variation in terminal size and maximum longevity. There are strongly contrasting patterns of habitat variation in demography at 2 sites: at Bermuda, fish settle inshore, grow to about asymptotic size and then, when 2 to 6 yr old, relocate permanently to outer reefs, where they can reach 32 yr. At Belize, fish settle and attain 10 yr on both inner and outer reefs, but grow faster and reach a ~50% greater asymptotic weight on inner reefs. Habitat differences in growth at Belize largely span the range of variation among NW Atlantic locations. A. bahianus exhibits the fastest growth known for an acanthurid, and the strongest spatial variation in demography known for a tropical reef-fish. Maximum age, adult survivorship, terminal size and absolute growth rate are inversely related to temperature. However, relative growth rate is not: in all populations a similar percentage of mean asymptotic standard length (L) is achieved at 1, 2 and 3 yr, and then growth effectively ceases. Variation in longevity is related to temperature, and is largely independent of size. Variation in growth and size is related strongly to both habitat and temperature effects, and the rate of growth appears to set terminal size. High longevity at 3 isolated oceanic islands seems to reflect a temperature effect, rather than an island effect.


KEY WORDS: Acanthuridae · Acanthurus bahianus · Tropical West Atlantic · Otolith · Longevity · Growth · Size · Temperature


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