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MEPS prepress abstract   -  DOI:

Potential for grouper acoustic competition and partitioning at a multispecies spawning site in Little Cayman, Cayman Islands

Katherine C. Wilson*, Brice X. Semmens, Christy V. Pattengill-Semmens, Croy McCoy, Ana Širović

*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Many fishes produce calls during spawning that aid in species and mate recognition. When multiple sound-producing species inhabit an area, the detection range may decrease and limit call function. Acoustic partitioning, the separation of calls in time, space, or spectral frequency, can minimize interference among species and provide information about fish behavior and ecology, including possible response to increasing anthropogenic noise. We investigated acoustic partitioning among 4 sound-producing epinephelids, Nassau grouper Epinephelus striatus, red hind E. guttatus, black grouper Mycteroperca bonaci, and yellowfin grouper M. venenosa, using passive acoustic data collected at Little Cayman, Cayman Islands, during the spawning season of 2015 to 2017. We measured spectral and temporal features of 9 call types known or presumed to be produced by these fishes to assess frequency partitioning and call discrimination. We assessed call temporal and spatial partitioning using recordings from 2 locations. Differences among call features enabled good discrimination of Nassau grouper and red hind but not black and yellowfin grouper. The median peak frequencies of calls differed but bandwidths shared a common 13 Hz range, resulting in limited partitioning of spectral space. Red hind produced calls with higher frequencies than other species. Black grouper calling peaked before sunset whereas other species’ calling peaked after. Yellowfin grouper calling was prevalent north of other species, suggesting spatial separation. These results indicated separation in space and time between species calls, which aids in acoustic partitioning. When this separation did not occur, unique call structures were present which may aid in effective communication.