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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 491:77-90 (2013)  -  DOI:

Evaluation of the taxonomic sufficiency approach for ichthyoplankton community analysis

Frank J. Hernandez Jr.1,4,*, Laure Carassou1,5, William M. Graham2, Sean P. Powers3,1 

1Dauphin Island Sea Lab, Dauphin Island, Alabama 36528, USA
2Department of Marine Science, The University of Southern Mississippi, Stennis Space Center, Mississippi 39529, USA
3Department of Marine Sciences, University of South Alabama, Mobile, Alabama 36688, USA
4Present address: Department of Coastal Sciences, The University of Southern Mississippi, Ocean Springs, Mississippi 39564, USA
5Present address: Rhodes University, Department of Zoology and Entomology, PO box 94, Grahamstown 6140, South Africa

ABSTRACT: Ichthyoplankton identification is a time-consuming task, and often larvae cannot be identified to species due to a lack of adequate early life history descriptions. As a result, ichthyoplankton assemblage data are often analyzed at the family level, which results in a loss of taxonomic resolution, or at mixed taxonomic levels (e.g. family, genus and species combined), which can lead to difficulties in interpretation of results when a single species is included in multiple taxonomic groupings. The taxonomic sufficiency (TS) approach has been used extensively in other disciplines (e.g. benthic marine macrofauna) to address similar analytical constraints, but to date this method has not been rigorously examined for ichthyoplankton studies. In this study, an ichthyoplankton data set collected in the northern Gulf of Mexico was proportioned into 3 data subsets with varying levels of taxonomic resolution: (1) species level only; (2) species, genus and family levels; and (3) combined taxonomic levels. Comparisons were made for assemblage metrics (larval density, richness and diversity) calculated for each taxonomic subset, as well as multivariate analyses of temporal variations characterizing ichthyoplankton assemblages. Genus- and species-level similarity matrices were highly correlated, which suggests analyses at the genus level could serve as a good proxy for species when examining assemblage diversity. Multivariate results for seasonal patterns were similar among family-, genus- and species-level analyses. The common approach of analyzing ichthyoplankton assemblages at mixed taxonomic levels, however, is not as statistically rigorous as single taxonomic-level analyses.

KEY WORDS: Taxonomic resolution · Larval fish · Seasonality · Gulf of Mexico · Multivariate community analyses

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Cite this article as: Hernandez FJ Jr, Carassou L, Graham WM, Powers SP (2013) Evaluation of the taxonomic sufficiency approach for ichthyoplankton community analysis. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 491:77-90.

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