Coral Reefs

, Volume 36, Issue 2, pp 663–674 | Cite as

Intraspecific variability in the life histories of endemic coral-reef fishes between photic and mesophotic depths across the Central Pacific Ocean

  • M. S. Winston
  • B. M. Taylor
  • E. C. Franklin


Mesophotic coral ecosystems (MCEs) represent the lowest depth distribution inhabited by many coral reef-associated organisms. Research on fishes associated with MCEs is sparse, leading to a critical lack of knowledge of how reef fish found at mesophotic depths may vary from their shallow reef conspecifics. We investigated intraspecific variability in body condition and growth of three Hawaiian endemics collected from shallow, photic reefs (5–33 m deep) and MCEs (40–75 m) throughout the Hawaiian Archipelago and Johnston Atoll: the detritivorous goldring surgeonfish, Ctenochaetus strigosus, and the planktivorous threespot chromis, Chromis verater, and Hawaiian dascyllus, Dascyllus albisella. Estimates of body condition and size-at-age varied between shallow and mesophotic depths; however, these demographic differences were outweighed by the magnitude of variability found across the latitudinal gradient of locations sampled within the Central Pacific. Body condition and maximum body size were lowest in samples collected from shallow and mesophotic Johnston Atoll sites, with no difference occurring between depths. Samples from the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands tended to have the highest body condition and reached the largest body sizes, with differences between shallow and mesophotic sites highly variable among species. The findings of this study support newly emerging research demonstrating intraspecific variability in the life history of coral-reef fish species whose distributions span shallow and mesophotic reefs. This suggests not only that the conservation and fisheries management should take into consideration differences in the life histories of reef-fish populations across spatial scales, but also that information derived from studies of shallow fishes be applied with caution to conspecific populations in mesophotic coral environments.


Coral-reef fish Life history Mesophotic coral ecosystems Growth Body condition 



We thank the captain and crew of the NOAA ship Hi’ialakai and J. Burns, D. Coffey, R. Coleman, J. Copus, B. Hauk, I. Fernandez, L. Giuseffi, R. Kosaki, J. Leonard, K. Longenecker, Y. Papastamatiou, D. Pence, R. Pyle, M. Royer, J. Troller, D. Wagner, R. Whitton, and K. Williams and the ToBo Lab at HIMB for their assistance in procuring samples for this study. M. Hixon and I. Williams provided valuable guidance and review of this work. Z. Oyafuso and M. Kapur assisted with statistical analysis and R programming. This work was conducted under permits # PMNM-2012-0450A1, PMNM-2014-031, PMNM-2015-020, PMNM-2015-030, PMNM-2015-029, PMNM-2015-021. Funding support was NOAA award #NA10NMF4520163 (ECF). This is SOEST contribution 9848 and HIMB contribution 1670.

Supplementary material

338_2017_1559_MOESM1_ESM.eps (864 kb)
Fig. S1 Relationship between age and otolith weight (g) for Chromis verater (a), Ctenochaetus strigosus (b), and Dascyllus albisella (c) in the North Central Pacific (EPS 863 kb)
338_2017_1559_MOESM2_ESM.docx (18 kb)
Supplementary material 2 (DOCX 18 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • M. S. Winston
    • 1
  • B. M. Taylor
    • 2
  • E. C. Franklin
    • 1
  1. 1.School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology, Hawaii Institute of Marine BiologyUniversity of HawaiiKaneoheUSA
  2. 2.Joint Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Research, University of Hawaii and Pacific Islands Fisheries Science CenterNational Oceanic and Atmospheric AdministrationHonoluluUSA

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