Coral Reefs

, Volume 32, Issue 2, pp 487–494 | Cite as

Live coral repels a common reef fish ectoparasite

  • J. M. Artim
  • P. C. SikkelEmail author


Coral reefs are undergoing rapid changes as living corals give way to dead coral on which other benthic organisms grow. This decline in live coral could influence habitat availability for fish parasites with benthic life stages. Gnathiid isopod larvae live in the substratum and are common blood-feeding parasites of reef fishes. We examined substrate associations and preferences of a common Caribbean gnathiid, Gnathia marleyi. Emergence traps set over predominantly live coral substrata captured significantly fewer gnathiids than traps set over dead coral substrata. In laboratory experiments, gnathiids preferred dead coral and sponge and tended to avoid contact with live coral. When live gnathiids were added to containers with dead or live coral, significantly fewer were recovered from the latter after 24 h. Our data therefore suggest that live coral is not suitable microhabitat for parasitic gnathiid isopods and that a decrease in live coral cover increases available habitat for gnathiids.


Coral loss Gnathiidae Parasites Benthic habitat Coral reefs Sponge 



We thank E. Brill, A. Coile, M. Ellis, W. Jenkins, K. Parker, W. Sears, H. Owen, J. Sellers, L. Weintrub, and R. Welicky for field assistance and A. Alldredge for sharing the design of her emergence traps. We also thank Arkansas State University, Earthwatch® Institute, and Microsoft® for financial support, and Arkansas State University, the Virgin Islands Environmental Resource Station and the University of the Virgin Islands for logistical support.

Supplementary material

Supplementary material 1 (MP4 1349 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Biological Sciences and Environmental Sciences ProgramArkansas State UniversityState UniversityUSA

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