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MEPS prepress abstract   -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/meps13833

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

Henri Vall├Ęs*, Donald L Kramer

*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 Sparisoma viride with some S. aurofrenatum) on nine 6 x 6 m quadrats on the fringing reef front in Barbados (West Indies) every 15 days for six months. 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, Stegastes diencaeus, and threespot, Stegastes planifrons, damselfishes. Whereas 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.