Advertisement

Marine Biology

, 164:189 | Cite as

Benthic composition influences habitat use and toxicity of coral-dwelling fishes

  • Pedro Henrique Cipresso Pereira
Original paper

Abstract

The distribution and abundance of habitat specialists is often associated with the availability of preferred habitat; however, other environmental features can also influence habitat selection. Coral-dwelling gobies are habitat specialist fishes that depend on the availability of a few key species of coral for their survival and rely on skin toxins to reduce predation risk. This study investigated the influence of benthic substratum around coral colonies on patterns of habitat use and toxicity of two species of coral-dwelling gobies (Gobiodon erythrospilus and Gobiodon histrio) that compete for access to the coral, Acropora nasuta. Field surveys demonstrated that the benthic substratum around A. nasuta coral colonies differed between colonies occupied by G. histrio and G. erythrospilus. Juvenile, single adult and breeding pairs of G. erythrospilus mostly inhabited A. nasuta colonies surrounded by branching corals. In contrast, juvenile and single adult G. histrio associated with A. nasuta coral colonies that had adjacent epilithic algal matrix and G. histrio breeding pairs inhabited colonies surrounded by sand/rubble. Habitat choice experiments demonstrated that both goby species prefer A. nasuta coral colonies with benthic substratum mainly composed by epilithic algal matrix and sand; suggesting that competition for coral colonies in preferred locations could influence patterns of habitat use observed in the field. The substratum around preferred coral colonies also influenced the toxicity levels of associated fishes. Gobies inhabiting A. nasuta coral colonies surrounded by epilithic algal matrix and sand showed higher levels of toxicity than gobies collected from colonies surrounded by branching corals. Given the potential for toxicity level to reduce the risk of predation, this could explain why gobies would compete for access to colonies of the preferred coral species surrounded by epilithic algal matrix and sand. These results show that the habitat use of coral habitat specialist fishes can be affected by the benthic composition around preferred coral colonies and demonstrate how competition for important secondary resources can influence patterns of habitat use.

Notes

Acknowledgements

I thank Matthew Jankowski, Rahel Zemoi and the staff at Lizard Island Research Station for assistance with field work. I would also like to thank Professor Philip Munday and Geoffrey Jones for the immeasurable support and guidance. The study was supported by funding from the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies. PHCP was supported by a CNPq scholarship.

Compliance with ethical standards

Informed consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

Ethical standards

All applicable international, national, and/or institutional guidelines for the care and use of animals were followed.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

References

  1. Bakus GJ (1981) Chemical defense mechanisms on the Great Barrier Reef, Australia. Science 211:497–499CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Brooker RM, Munday PL, Ainsworth TD (2010) Diets of coral-dwelling fishes of the genus Gobiodon with evidence of corallivory. J Fish Biol 76:2578–2583CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Cameron AM, Endean R (1973) Epidermal secretions and the evolution of venom glands in fishes. Toxicon 11:401–410CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Chase TJ, Pratchett MS, Walker SPW, Hoogenboom MO (2014) Small-scale environmental variation influences whether coral-dwelling fish promote or impede coral growth. Oecologia 176:1009–1022CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Coker DJ, Wilson SK, Pratchett MS (2014) Importance of live coral habitat for reef fishes. Rev Fish Biol Fish 24:89–126CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Devictor V, Julliard R, Jiguet F (2008) Distribution of specialist and generalist species along spatial gradients of habitat disturbance and fragmentation. Oikos 117:507–514CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Dickson DL, Hay M (2012) Corals chemically cue mutualistic fishes to remove competing seaweeds. Science 338:804–807CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Dirnwöber M, Herler J (2007) Microhabitat specialization and ecological consequences for coral gobies of the genus Gobiodon in the Gulf of Aqaba, northern Red Sea. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 342:265–275CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Dirnwöber M, Herler J (2013) Toxic coral gobies reduce the feeding rate of a corallivorous butterflyfish on Acropora corals. Coral Reefs 32:91–100CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Duchene D, Klanten SO, Munday PL, Herler J, Herwerden LV (2013) Phylogenetic evidence for recent diversification of obligate coral-dwelling gobies compared with their host corals. Mol Phylogenet Evol 69:123–132CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Feary DA, Almany GR, Mccormick MI, Jones GP (2007) Habitat choice, recruitment and the response of coral reef fishes to coral degradation. Oecologia 153:727–737CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Friedlander AM, Parrish JD (1998) Habitat characteristics affecting fish assemblages on a Hawaiian coral reef. J Exp Mar Biol Ecol 224:1–30CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Gochfeld DJ (2010) Territorial damselfishes facilitate survival of corals by providing an associational defense against predators. Mar Ecol Progr Ser 398:137–148CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Goldshmid R, Holzman R, Weihs D, Genin A (2004) Aeration of corals by sleep-swimming fish. Limnol Oceanogr 49:1832–1839CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Gratzer B, Millesi E, Walzl M, Herler J (2014) Skin toxins in coral-associated Gobiodon species (Teleostei: Gobiidae) affect predator preference and prey survival. Mar Ecol 36:67–76CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Halstead BW (1978) Poisonous and venomous marine animals of the world, revised edn. The Darwin Press Inc, Princeton, pp 879–916Google Scholar
  17. Hashimoto Y, Shiomi K, Aida K (1974) Occurence of a skin toxin in coral-gobies Gobiodon spp. Toxicon 12:523–528CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Hobbs JPA, Munday PL (2004) Intraspecific competition controls spatial distribution and social organisation of the coral-dwelling goby Gobiodon histrio. Mar Ecol Progr Ser 278:253–259CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Holbrook SJ, Brooks AJ, Schmitt RJ, Stewart HL (2008) Effects of sheltering fish on growth of their host corals. Mar Biol 155:521–530CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Hutchinson GE (1957) The multivariate niche. Cold Spr Harb Symp Quant Biol 22:415–421CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Johansen JL (2014) Quantifying water flow within aquatic ecosystems using load cell sensors: a profile of currents experienced by coral reef organisms around Lizard Island, Great Barrier Reef, Australia. PLoS One 9:e83240CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Kiers E, Palmer T, Ives A, Bruno J, Bronstein J (2010) Mutualisms in a changing world: an evolutionary perspective. Ecol Lett 13:1459–1474CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Kramer MJ, Bellwood DR, Bellwood O (2012) Cryptofauna of the epilithic algal matrix on an inshore coral reef, Great Barrier Reef. Coral Reefs 31:1007–1015CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Lassig BR (1981) Significance of the epidermal ichthyotoxic secretion of coral-dwelling gobies. Toxicon 19:728–735CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Leal ICS, de Araújo ME, da Cunha SR, Pereira PHC (2015) The influence of fire-coral colony size and agonistic behaviour of territorial damselfish on associated coral reef fish communities. Mar Environ Res 108:45–54CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. McNally RC (1995) Ecological versatility and community ecology. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Munday PL (2004) Competitive coexistence of coral-dwelling fishes: the lottery hypothesis revisited. Ecology 85:623–628CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Munday PL, Wilson SK (1997) Comparative efficacy of clove oil and other chemicals in anaesthetization of Pomacentrus amboinensis, a coral reef fish. J Fish Biol 51:931–938Google Scholar
  29. Munday PL, Jones GP, Caley MJ (1997) Habitat specialisation and the distribution and abundance of coral dwelling gobies. Mar Ecol Progr Ser 152:227–239CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Munday PL, Jones GP, Caley MJ (2001) Interspecific competition and coexistence in a guild of coral-dwelling fishes. Ecology 82:2177–2189CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Noonan SHC, Jones GP, Pratchett MS (2012) Coral size, health and structural complexity: effects on the ecology of a coral reef damselfish. Mar Ecol Progr Ser 456:127–137CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Pereira PHC, Munday PL (2016) Coral colony size and structure as determinants of habitat use and fitness of coral-dwelling fishes. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 553:163–172CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Pereira PHC, Munday PL, Jones GP (2015) Mechanisms of competitive coexistence change with ontogeny in coral-dwelling gobies. Ecology 96:3090–3101CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Sachs JL, Simms EL (2006) Pathways to mutualism breakdown. Trends Ecol Evol 21:585–592CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Sale PF (1977) Maintenance of high diversity in coral reef fish communities. Am Nat 111:337–359CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Schiemer L, Niedermüller S, Herler J (2009) The influence of colony size and coral health on the occupation of coral-associated gobies (Pisces: Gobiidae). Coral Reefs 28:137–142CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Schubert M, Munday PL, Caley MJ, Jones GP, Llewellyn LE (2003) The toxicity of skin secretions from coral-dwelling gobies and their potential role as a predator deterrent. Environ Biol Fishes 67:359–367CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Smith AG, McAlpine CA, Rhodes JR, Lunney D, Seabrook L, Baxter G (2013) Out on a limb: habitat use of a specialist folivore, the koala, at the edge of its range in a modified semi-arid landscape. Landsc Ecol 28:415–426CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Untersteggaber L, Mitteroecker P, Herler J (2014) Coral architecture affects the habitat choice and form of associated gobiid fishes. Mar Biol 161:521–530CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Wen CKC, Pratchett MS, Almany GR, Jones GP (2013) Patterns of recruitment and microhabitat associations for three predatory coral reef fishes on the southern Great Barrier Reef, Australia. Coral Reefs 32:389–398CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Wilson SK, Bellwood DR, Choat JH, Furnas MJ (2003) Detritus in the epilithic algal matrix and its use by coral reef fishes. Oceanogr Mar Biol 41:279–310Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.College of Marine and Environmental Sciences and ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef StudiesJames Cook UniversityTownsvilleAustralia

Personalised recommendations