Marine Biology

, 166:66 | Cite as

Disentangling the spatial distributions of a sponge-dwelling fish and its host sponge

  • K. C. LesneskiEmail author
  • C. C. D’Aloia
  • M.-J. Fortin
  • P. M. Buston
Short Note


Characterizing spatial patterns of occurrence can lend insight into the ecological processes that determine how individuals are distributed within their environment. When microhabitat specialist fishes and their invertebrate hosts are co-distributed, disentangling their respective spatial patterns is a complex problem. Here, we use point pattern analysis (PPA) to examine the spatial distributions of a host sponge Aplysina fistularis and its resident goby Elacatinus lori from a fully censused plot at Curlew Cay, Belize (16°47′23″N 88°04′33″W), sampled in summer 2011. The PPA approach allowed us to disentangle the spatial distribution of sponges and the spatial distribution of goby-occupied sponges. After controlling for depth and the distribution of hard substrate, we found that the sponges were clustered at small scales (< 4.5 m) within the censused area. After controlling for sponge clustering, we found that goby-occupied sponges were neither clustered nor over-dispersed within the censused area. Two fish age classes, recent settlers and established residents, were closely associated at small scales (< 3.5 m). We discuss alternative ecological and behavioral hypotheses for the cause of these spatial patterns. Despite the limited application of PPA in marine ecology, we demonstrate the potential use of this statistical analysis in disentangling the spatial structure of co-distributed populations and providing preliminary insights into the processes that may account for their respective distributions.



The authors thank the major funding source for this fieldwork (start-up grant for PMB provided by Boston University). We thank Udel Foreman, John Majoris, Alissa Rickborn and Marian Wong for assistance in the field; Robin Francis for sharing unpublished data; and John Finnerty and two anonymous reviewers for comments on this manuscript.


All applicable international, national, and institutional guidelines for fieldwork, sampling, care, and use of organisms for the study and all necessary approvals have been obtained via Boston University IACUC protocol #10-036 and the Belize Fisheries Department. Funding was provided by a start-up award from the Trustees of Boston University, and by NSF awards OCE-1260424 and OCE-1459546, to PMB.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

During the writing of this manuscript, KCL was supported by a Warren McLeod Fellowship and a Teaching Fellowship at Boston University, and CCD was supported by a Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada strategic grant to M-JF. All authors declare that we have neither conflict of interest with funding sources nor the submission of this manuscript.


  1. Alzate A, Zapata FA, Giraldo A (2014) A comparison of visual and collection-based methods for assessing community structure of coral reef fishes in the Tropical Eastern Pacific. Rev Biol Trop 62:359. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Baddeley A, Turner R (2005) Spatstat an R package for analyzing spatial point patterns. J Stat Softw 12:1–42. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Beldade R, Gonçalves EJ (2007) An interference visual census technique applied to cryptobenthic fish assemblages. Vie Milieu 57:61–65Google Scholar
  4. Buston PM (2003) Forcible eviction and prevention of recruitment in the clown anemonefish. Behav Ecol 14:576–582. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Chausson J, Srinivasan M, Jones GP (2018) Host anemone size as a determinant of social group size and structure in the orange clownfish (Amphiprion percula). PeerJ 6:e5841. CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  6. Coker DJ, DiBattista JD, Sinclair-Taylor TH, Berumen ML (2018) Spatial patterns of cryptobenthic coral-reef fishes in the Red Sea. Coral Reefs 37:193–199. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Colby DR, Fonseca MS (1984) Population dynamics, spatial dispersion, and somatic growth of the sand fiddler crab Uca pugilator. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 16:269–279. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Cole RG, Syms C (1999) Using spatial pattern analysis to distinguish causes of mortality: an example from kelp in north-eastern New Zealand. J Ecol 87:963–972. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Colin PL (2002) A new species of sponge-dwelling Elacatinus (Pisces: Gobiidae) from the western Caribbean. Zootaxa 106:1–7. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. D’Aloia CC, Majoris JE, Buston PM (2011) Predictors of the distribution and abundance of a tube sponge and its resident goby. Coral Reefs 30:777–786. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. D’Aloia CC, Bogdanowicz SM, Francis RK, Majoris JE, Harrison RG, Buston PM (2015) Patterns, causes, and consequences of marine larval dispersal. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 112:13940–13945. CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  12. D’Aloia CC, Xuereb A, Fortin MJ, Bogdanowicz SM, Buston PM (2018) Limited dispersal explains the spatial distribution of siblings in a reef fish population. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 607:143–154. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Dale MR, Fortin MJ (2014) Spatial analysis: a guide for ecologists. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Depczynski M, Bellwood DR (2003) The role of cryptobenthic reef fishes in coral reef trophodynamics. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 256:183–191. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Diaz MC, Rützler K (2001) Sponges: an essential component of Caribbean coral reefs. Bull Mar Sci 69:535–546Google Scholar
  16. Elliott JK, Mariscal RN (2001) Coexistence of nine anemonefish species: differential host and habitat utilization, size and recruitment. Mar Biol 138:123–136. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Endean R, Cameron AM, Fox HE, Tilbury R, Gunthrope L (1997) Massive corals are regularly spaced: pattern in a complex assemblage of corals. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 152:119–130. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Feary DA (2007) The influence of resource specialization on the response of reef fish to coral disturbance. Mar Biol 153:153–161. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Harborne AR, Jelks HL, Smith-Vaniz WF, Rocha LA (2012) Abiotic and biotic controls of cryptobenthic fish assemblages across a Caribbean seascape. Coral Reefs 31:977–990. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Hayes FE, Trimm NA (2008) Distributional ecology of the anemone shrimp Periclimenes rathbunae associating with the sea anemone Stichodactyla helianthus at Tobago, West Indies. Nauplius 16:73–77Google Scholar
  21. Illian J, Penttinen A, Stoyan H, Stoyan D (2008) Statistical analysis and modelling of spatial point patterns, vol 70. Wiley, New York. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Kane CN, Brooks AJ, Holbrook SJ, Schmitt RJ (2009) The role of microhabitat preference and social organization in determining the spatial distribution of a coral reef fish. Environ Biol Fishes 84:1–10. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Karlson RH, Cornell HV, Hughes TP (2007) Aggregation influences coral species richness at multiple spatial scales. Ecology 88:170–177.;2 CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  24. Liversage K, Benkendorff K (2013) A preliminary investigation of diversity, abundance, and distributional patterns of chitons in intertidal boulder fields of differing rock type in South Australia. Molluscan Res 33:24–33. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Majoris JE, D’Aloia CC, Francis RK, Buston PM (2018) Differential persistence favors habitat preferences that determine the distribution of a reef fish. Behav Ecol 29:429–439. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Maldonado M, Riesgo A (2008) Reproduction in the phylum Porifera: a synoptic overview. Treballs de la SCB 59:29–49Google Scholar
  27. Maldonado M, Young C (1996) Effects of physical factors on larval behavior, settlement and recruitment of four tropical demosponges. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 138:169–180. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Melles SJ, Badzinski D, Fortin M-J, Csillag F, Lindsay K (2009) Disentangling habitat and social drivers of nesting patterns in songbirds. Landsc Ecol 24:519–531. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Miller PJ (1979) Adaptiveness and implications of small size in teleosts. Symp Zool Soc 44:263–306Google Scholar
  30. Mitchel A (2005) The ESRI guide to GIS analysis, volume 2: spatial measurements and statistics. Environmental Systems Research Institute, Inc, RedlandsGoogle Scholar
  31. Munday PL, Jones GP (1998) The ecological implications of small body size among coral-reef fishes. Oceanogr Mar Biol 36:373–411Google Scholar
  32. Munday PL, Jones GP, Caley MJ (1997) Habitat specialisation and the distribution and abundance of coral-dwelling gobies. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 152:227–239. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Nizinski MS (1989) Ecological distribution, demography and behavioral observations on Periclimenes anthophilus, an atypical symbiotic cleaner shrimp. Bull Mar Sci 45:174–188Google Scholar
  34. Pineda J, Porri F, Starczak V, Blythe J (2010) Causes of decoupling between larval supply and settlement and consequences for understanding recruitment and population connectivity. J Exp Mar Biol Ecol 392:9–21. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Porri F, McQuaid DM, Radloff S (2006) Spatio-temporal variability of larval abundance and settlement of Perna perna: differential delivery of mussels. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 315:141–150. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Ripley BD (1988) Statistical inference for spatial processes. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Russo AR (1979) Dispersion and food differences between two populations of the sea urchin Strongylocentrotus franciscanus. J Biogeogr 1:407–414. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Sale PF (1972) Influence of corals in the dispersion of the pomacentrid fish, Dascyllus aruanus. Ecology 53:741–744. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Sale PF, Douglas WA (1981) Precision and accuracy of visual census technique for fish assemblages on coral patch reefs. Environ Biol Fish 6:333–339. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Stimson J (1974) An analysis of the pattern of dispersion of the hermatypic coral Pocillopora meandrina var. nobilis Verril. Ecology 55:445–449. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Taylor PD, Wilson MA (2003) Palaeoecology and evolution of marine hard substrate communities. Earth Sci Rev 62:1–103. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Tolimieri N (1998) The relationship among microhabitat characteristics, recruitment and adult abundance in the stoplight parrot-fish, Sparisoma viride, at three spatial scales. Bull Mar Sci 62:253–268Google Scholar
  43. Wagner HH, Fortin M-J (2005) Spatial analysis of landscapes: concepts and statistics. Ecology 86:1975–1987. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Wiegand T, Moloney KA (2013) Handbook of spatial point-pattern analysis in ecology. Chapman and Hall/CRC Press, Boca RatonGoogle Scholar
  45. Wilkinson CR, Evans E (1989) Sponge distribution across Davies Reef, Great Barrier Reef, relative to location, depth, and water movement. Coral Reefs 8:1–7. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Willis TJ (2001) Visual census methods underestimate density and diversity of cryptic reef fishes. J Fish Biol 59:1408–1411. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Wirtz P (1997) Crustacean symbionts of the sea anemone Telmatactis cricoides at Madeira and the Canary Islands. J Zool 242:799–811. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Wulff JL (1985) Dispersal and survival of fragments of coral reef sponges. Proc Fifth Int Coral Reef Congr 5:119–124Google Scholar
  49. Zea S (1993) Recruitment of demosponges (Porifera, Demospongiae) in rocky and coral reef habitats of Santa Marta, Colombian Caribbean. Mar Ecol 14:1–21. CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Biology and Marine ProgramBoston UniversityBostonUSA
  2. 2.Department of Biological SciencesUniversity of New BrunswickSaint JohnCanada
  3. 3.Department of Ecology and Evolutionary BiologyUniversity of TorontoTorontoCanada

Personalised recommendations