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Zoogeography of the shorefish fauna of Clipperton Atoll


One hundred and fifteen species of fishes (14 oceanic, plus 101 shore and nearshore species) are known from Clipperton Island, a small, remote coral atoll in the tropical eastern Pacific (TEP). This fish fauna includes only ∼ 14% of the region's shallow-water species, and also is depauperate relative to the fish faunas of other isolated tropical islands. The island's isolation, small size, reduced habitat diversity, and oceanic environment contribute to this paucity of species.

Fifty-two species at Clipperton can be identified as TEP; these include 37 widespread species, six species shared only with the Revillagigedo Islands [the nearest (950 km) offshore shoals], and eight endemic to Clipperton. Endemics species apparently have a mix of west and east Pacific origins. Sixty-three species are transpacific; they include three new records (of Naso surgeonfishes) that maybe vagrants recruited > 4,000 km from Oceania.

Clipperton is situated at the juncture between the TEP and Oceania. Its fish fauna contains about equal numbers of TEP and transpacific species. This faunal structure reflects the relative influence of surface currents from Oceania and the TEP. Although most of Clipperton's transpacific shorefishes are widespread in eastern Oceania, the Clipperton fauna has specific affinities to the fauna of the Line Islands, which are located within the main eastbound current from Oceania. Clipperton may therefore be a major stepping stone for dispersal between Oceania and the remainder of the TEP. About 50% of the non-oceanic, tropical transpacific fishes occur there, and at least 75 % of those species apparently have resident populations at the island.

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Robertson, D.R., Allen, G.R. Zoogeography of the shorefish fauna of Clipperton Atoll. Coral Reefs 15, 121–131 (1996). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF01771902

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  • Atoll
  • Habitat Diversity
  • Step Stone
  • Fish Fauna
  • Widespread Species