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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 274:153-159 (2004)  -  doi:10.3354/meps274153

Relative importance of interlinked mangroves and seagrass beds as feeding habitats for juvenile reef fish on a Caribbean island

I. Nagelkerken1,2,*, G. van der Velde1

1Department of Animal Ecology and Ecophysiology, University of Nijmegen, Toernooiveld 1, 6525 ED Nijmegen, The Netherlands
2Carmabi Foundation, PO Box 2090, Piscaderabaai z/n, Curaçao, Netherlands Antilles

ABSTRACT: Mangroves and seagrass beds are important daytime shelter habitats for juvenile Caribbean reef fish species, but little is known about their relative importance as feeding grounds. In the present study, we tested the degree to which these 2 habitats are used as a feeding ground for 4 nocturnally active fish species on Curaçao, Netherlands Antilles. Stable isotope analysis was used as a technique to distinguish between feeding in mangroves and seagrass beds. Individuals of the 4 species which were sheltering during the daytime in permanently inundated fringing mangroves subject to low tidal exchange showed a stable carbon isotope signature indicative of a mixed diet composed of crustaceans from mangroves as well as seagrass beds, with the contribution from mangrove food items lying between 57 and 92%. However, individuals of the same species sheltering on adjacent (<50 m distance) seagrass beds during the daytime showed a carbon signature indicative of almost exclusive feeding on seagrass beds. This indicates that 2 different subpopulations probably exist for the 4 species studied: a population of fishes sheltering in mangroves during the daytime and feeding primarily in the mangroves and secondarily in the seagrass beds at night, and a population of fishes of the same species sheltering in adjacent seagrass beds during the daytime and feeding primarily in seagrass beds at night.

KEY WORDS: Coral reef fish · Mangroves · Seagrass beds · Stable isotopes · Feeding habitats · Interlinkages

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