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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 675:97-112 (2021)  -  DOI:

Microhabitat use by recently settled Sparisoma parrotfishes: ontogenetic shifts and association with algal-gardening damselfishes

Henri Vallès1,2,*, Donald L. Kramer2,3

1Department of Biological and Chemical Sciences, University of the West Indies, Cave Hill, BB11000 Barbados
2Department of Biology, McGill University, 1205 Avenue Docteur Penfield, Montreal, QC H3A 1B1, Canada
3Present address: 512-831 Dunsmuir Road, Victoria, BC V9A 5B9, Canada
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Little is known about microhabitat use by Caribbean parrotfishes soon after settlement from the plankton. We monitored the abundance and distribution of recently settled Sparisoma spp. (likely mostly S. viride with some S. aurofrenatum) on 6 × 6 m quadrats (n = 9) on the fringing reef front in Barbados (West Indies) every 15 d for 6 mo. Each quadrat was divided into 1 m2 cells to examine associations between substrate composition and recruit (<1.3 cm standard length, SL) and small juvenile (1.3-3 cm SL) abundance. Recruits and small juveniles tended to use some cells more than others, and their distribution partially overlapped. Both were associated with long turf algae on dead coral. However, small juveniles were also associated with crustose coralline algae and substrate elevation, suggesting a partial ontogenetic change in microhabitat use. Microhabitat associations were similar to those of co-occurring algal-gardening longfin damselfish Stegastes diencaeus and threespot damselfish S. planifrons. Whereas Sparisoma recruits overlapped with longfins and to a lesser extent with threespots, small juveniles overlapped only with threespots. Some of the microhabitat associations with recruits and small juveniles at the cell scale were also found across quadrats. We suggest that the reef front is an important habitat for recently settled Sparisoma in Barbados, where they rely on being cryptic and solitary within turf algae gardens defended by damselfishes to minimize predation. After some growth, they perform a microhabitat shift, perhaps due to increased damselfish aggression. Thus, the early post-settlement dynamics of Caribbean Sparisoma might be strongly influenced by substrate modification by algal-gardening damselfishes.

KEY WORDS: Labridae · Scarini · Pomacentridae · Coral reef · Habitat selection · Stegastes

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Cite this article as: Vallès H, Kramer DL (2021) Microhabitat use by recently settled Sparisoma parrotfishes: ontogenetic shifts and association with algal-gardening damselfishes. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 675:97-112.

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