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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 167:227-239 (1998)  -  doi:10.3354/meps167227

Contrasting effects of microhabitat use on large-scale adult abundance in two families of Caribbean reef fishes

Nick Tolimieri

Department of Biological Science, University of Windsor, Windsor, Ontario N9B 3P4, Canada

An important question for ecologists is whether the processes that influence the distribution of organisms at small spatial scales also influence the variation in abundance at larger scales. I examined the relationship between microhabitat use by individual fishes and variation in abundance among sites for the adults of 11 species of Caribbean reef fishes (6 pomacentrids and 5 scarids). At the level of individual microhabitat use, all species associated with certain substrata(um) more than would be expected at random, but not all species associated with the same substrata. The abundance of these 11 species varied greatly among 13 sites located along the northern shore of St. Croix, US Virgin Islands. Microhabitat use explained 32 to 49% of the variation in abundance among these 13 sites for 3 of the damselfish species (Stegastes planifrons, S. partitus, and Microspathodon chrysurus) and ~85% for a fourth damselfish, S. dorsopunicans,. Only one parrotfish (Scarus iserti) showed any relationship between microhabitat use and the distribution of adult fishes among sites with approximately 50% of the variation in its abundance explained by a combination of microhabitat and distance from the eastern tip of the island. This difference between damselfishes and parrotfishes is probably related to the degree to which these families rely upon the reef substratum for shelter. These results indicate that small-scale processes can predict large-scale distributions of organisms. However, in the case of microhabitat, these results also indicate that the relationship between the species and the reef substratum must be considered.

Coral reef fish · Caribbean · Substrata · Microhabitat use

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