MEPS 358:95-102 (2008)  -  doi:10.3354/meps07334

Space size relative to prey width (Sp/Py) influences macrofaunal colonization of artificial structures

Aaron Bartholomew*, Roland L. Shine

American University of Sharjah, Department of Biology and Chemistry, PO Box 26666, Sharjah, United Arab Emirates

ABSTRACT: We tested an index of habitat complexity, Sp/Py (inter-structural space size/prey body width), by deploying artificial structures on a coral reef near Dibba, United Arab Emirates. The structures were polyethylene tube bundles with tube diameters of 3, 12 and 24 mm and a mixed treatment composed of all 3 tube sizes. We counted and identified mobile macrofauna that colonized the interior of the tubes and divided them into 3 body width categories: small (<3 mm), medium (3–12 mm) and large (>12 mm). Medium and large fauna were excluded from 3 mm tubes, and large fauna were excluded from 12 mm tubes. Small fauna were significantly more abundant in 24 mm tubes compared with 3 mm tubes, with intermediate abundance in 12 mm tubes. A second experiment determined that small fauna probably responded positively to tube interior volume, or responded to differences in hydrodynamic properties between the treatments. Medium fauna were more likely to be found in 12 mm tubes that matched their own body width than in 24 mm tubes. Species richness was significantly lower in the 3 mm tubes compared with the other treatments, in part because errant polychaetes, gastropods, caprellid amphipods and crabs were less likely to be found in the 3 mm tubes. These results indicate that habitats with very narrow inter-structural space sizes may be ‘too complex’ and may exclude certain fauna, resulting in decreased species richness. Also, some fauna may prefer habitats with intermediate space sizes that match their own body width.


KEY WORDS: Complexity · Structure · Habitat · Predator · Prey  · Refuge · Macrofauna


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Cite this article as: Bartholomew A, Shine RL (2008) Space size relative to prey width (Sp/Py) influences macrofaunal colonization of artificial structures. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 358:95-102

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