Coral Reefs

, Volume 36, Issue 3, pp 971–980 | Cite as

Benthic Crustacea from tropical and temperate reef locations: differences in assemblages and their relationship with habitat structure

  • Michael J. Kramer
  • David R. Bellwood
  • Richard B. Taylor
  • Orpha Bellwood


Tropical and temperate marine habitats have long been recognised as fundamentally different system, yet comparative studies are rare, particularly for small organisms such as Crustacea. This study investigates the ecological attributes (abundance, biomass and estimated productivity) of benthic Crustacea in selected microhabitats from a tropical and a temperate location, revealing marked differences in the crustacean assemblages. In general, microhabitats from the tropical location (dead coral, the epilithic algal matrix [algal turfs] and sand) supported high abundances of small individuals (mean length = 0.53 mm vs. 0.96 mm in temperate microhabitats), while temperate microhabitats (the brown seaweed Carpophyllum sp., coralline turf and sand) had substantially greater biomasses of crustaceans and higher estimated productivity rates. In both locations, the most important microhabitats for crustaceans (per unit area) were complex structures: tropical dead coral and temperate Carpophyllum sp. It appears that the differences between microhabitats are largely driven by the size and relative abundance of key crustacean groups. Temperate microhabitats have a higher proportion of relatively large Peracarida (Amphipoda and Isopoda), whereas tropical microhabitats are dominated by small detrital- and microalgal-feeding crustaceans (harpacticoid copepods and ostracods). These differences highlight the vulnerability of tropical and temperate systems to the loss of complex benthic structures and their associated crustacean assemblages.


Tropical Temperate Crustacea Habitat structure Turf Sand 



We would like to thank C. E. Mirbach, A. Spyksma, Leigh Marine Laboratory and Lizard Island Research Station for field support, J. Kramer, K. W. Kramer, and J. Tengvall for laboratory assistance, S. J. Brandl, S. B. Tebbett and M. Thiel for discussions and comments on earlier drafts, and three anonymous reviewers for helpful suggestions. This work was supported by the Australian Research Council (D. R. B.).

Supplementary material

338_2017_1588_MOESM1_ESM.docx (1.1 mb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 1093 kb)


  1. Ayling AM (1981) The role of biological disturbance in temperate subtidal encrusting communities. Ecology 62:830–847CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Bartholomew A, Diaz RJ, Cicchetti G (2000) New dimensionless indices of structural habitat complexity: predicted and actual effects on a predator’s foraging success. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 206:45–58CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Bellwood DR, Goatley CHR, Bellwood O (2017) The evolution of fishes and corals on reefs: form, function and interdependence. Biol Rev Camb Philos Soc 92:878–901CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  4. Bellwood DR, Wainwright PC, Fulton CJ, Hoey AS (2006) Functional versatility supports coral reef biodiversity. Proc R Soc Lond B Biol Sci 273:101–107CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Bellwood DR, Hoey AS, Bellwood O, Goatley CHR (2014) Evolution of long-toothed fishes and the changing nature of fish–benthos interactions on coral reefs. Nat Commun 5:3144CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  6. Berthelsen AK, Taylor RB (2014) Arthropod mesograzers reduce epiphytic overgrowth of subtidal coralline turf. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 515:123–132CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Berthelsen AK, Hewitt JE, Taylor RB (2015) Coralline turf-associated fauna are affected more by spatial variability than by host species identity. Marine Biodiversity 45:689CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Brandl SJ, Emslie MJ, Ceccarelli DM, Richards ZT (2016) Habitat degradation increases functional originality in highly diverse coral reef fish assemblages. Ecosphere 7:e01557CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Carleton JH, McKinnon AD (2007) Resident mysids: secondary production, consumption, and trophic role in a coral reef lagoon. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 336:89–98CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Chapelle G, Peck LS (2004) Amphipod crustacean size spectra: new insights in the relationship between size and oxygen. Oikos 106:167–175CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Choat JH (1982) Fish feeding and the structure of benthic communities in temperate waters. Annu Rev Ecol Syst 13:423–449CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Choat JH, Kingett PD (1982) The influence of fish predation on the abundance cycles of an algal turf invertebrate fauna. Oecologia 54:88–95CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  13. Cnudde C, Moens T, Werbrouck E, Lepoint G, Van Gansbeke D, De Troch M (2015) Trophodynamics of estuarine intertidal harpacticoid copepods based on stable isotope composition and fatty acid profiles. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 524:225–239CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Connell SD, Russell BD, Turner DJ, Shepherd SA, Kildea T, Miller D, Airoldi L, Cheshire A (2008) Recovering a lost baseline: missing kelp forests from a metropolitan coast. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 360:63–72CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Cowles A, Hewitt JE, Taylor RB (2009) Density, biomass and productivity of small mobile invertebrates in a wide range of coastal habitats. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 384:175–185CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Cowman PF, Bellwood DR, van Herwerden L (2009) Dating the evolutionary origins of wrasse lineages (Labridae) and the rise of trophic novelty on coral reefs. Mol Phylogenet Evol 52:621–631CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  17. Doropoulos C, Hyndes GA, Lavery PS, Tuya F (2009) Dietary preferences of two seagrass-inhabiting gastropods: allochthonous vs. autochthonous resources. Estuar Coast Shelf Sci 83:13–18CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Duffy JE (1990) Amphipods on seaweeds: partners or pests? Oecologia 83:267–276CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  19. Duffy JE, Hay ME (2000) Strong impacts of grazing amphipods on the organization of a benthic community. Ecol Monogr 70:237–263CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Edgar GJ (1990) The use of the size structure of benthic macrofaunal communities to estimate faunal biomass and secondary production. J Exp Mar Bio Ecol 137:195–214CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Edgar GJ, Moore P (1986) Macro-algae as habitats for motile macrofauna. Monografias Biologicas 4:255–277Google Scholar
  22. Edgar GJ, Shaw C (1995a) The production and trophic ecology of shallow-water fish assemblages in southern Australia II. Diets of fishes and trophic relationships between fishes and benthos at Western Port, Victoria. J Exp Mar Bio Ecol 194:83–106CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Edgar GJ, Shaw C (1995b) The production and trophic ecology of shallow-water fish assemblages in southern Australia III. General relationships between sediments, seagrasses, invertebrates and fishes. J Exp Mar Bio Ecol 194:107–131CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Enochs IC (2012) Motile cryptofauna associated with live and dead coral substrates: implications for coral mortality and framework erosion. Mar Biol 159:709–722CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Fox RJ, Bellwood DR (2007) Quantifying herbivory across a coral reef depth gradient. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 339:49–59CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Gacia E, Costalago D, Prado P, Piorno D, Tomas F (2009) Mesograzers in Posidonia oceanica meadows: an update of data on gastropod–epiphyte–seagrass interactions. Botanica Marina 52:439–447CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Glynn PW, Enochs IC (2011) Invertebrates and their roles in coral reef ecosystems. In: Dubinsky Z, Stambler N (eds) Coral reefs: an ecosystem in transition. Springer, Netherlands, pp 273–325CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Goatley CHR, Bellwood DR (2010) Biologically mediated sediment fluxes on coral reefs: sediment removal and off-reef transportation by the surgeonfish Ctenochaetus striatus. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 415:237–245CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Goatley CHR, Bellwood DR (2011) The roles of dimensionality, canopies and complexity in ecosystem monitoring. PLoS One 6:e27307CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  30. Goatley CHR, Bonaldo RM, Fox RJ, Bellwood DR (2016) Sediments and herbivory as sensitive indicators of coral reef degradation. Ecol Soc 21:29CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Holbrook SJ, Schmitt RJ, Ambrose RF (1990) Biogenic habitat structure and characteristics of temperate reef fish assemblages. Austral Ecol 15:489–503CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Hughes TP, Kerry JT, Álvarez-Noriega M, Álvarez-Romero JG, Anderson KD, Baird AH, Babcock RC, Beger M, Bellwood DR, Berkelmans R, Bridge TCL, Butler I, Byrne M, Cantin NE, Comeau S, Connolly SR, Cumming GS, Dalton SJ, Diaz-Pulido G, Eakin M, Figueira W, Gilmour J, Harrison HB, Heron SF, Hoey AS, Hobbs J-PA, Hoogenboom MO, Kennedy EV, Kuo C-Y, Lough JM, Lowe RJ, Liu G, McCulloch MT, Malcolm H, McWilliam M, Pandolfi JM, Pears R, Pratchett MS, Schoepf V, Simpson T, Skirving W, Sommer B, Torda G, Wachenfeld D, Willis BL, Wilson SK (2017) Global warming and recurrent mass bleaching of corals. Nature 543:373–377CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  33. Jacoby CA, Greenwood JG (1988) Spatial, temporal and behavioural patterns in emergence of zooplankton in the lagoon of Heron Reef, Great Barrier Reef, Australia. Mar Biol 97:309–328CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Jones GP (1988) Ecology of rocky reef fish of north-eastern New Zealand: a review. New Zealand Journal of Marine and Freshwater Research 22:445–462CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Keable SJ (1995) Structure of the marine invertebrate scavenging guild of a tropical reef ecosystem: field studies at Lizard Island, Queensland, Australia. Journal of Natural History 29:27–45CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Kelaher BP, Chapman MG, Underwood AJ (2001) Spatial patterns of diverse macrofaunal assemblages in coralline turf and their associations with environmental variables. J Mar Biol Assoc U K 81:917–930CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Klumpp DW, McKinnon AD, Mundy CN (1988) Motile cryptofauna of a coral reef — abundance, distribution and trophic potential. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 45:95–108CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. 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
  39. Kramer MJ, Bellwood O, Bellwood DR (2013) The trophic importance of algal turfs for coral reef fishes: the crustacean link. Coral Reefs 32:575–583CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Kramer MJ, Bellwood DR, Bellwood O (2014) Benthic Crustacea on coral reefs: a quantitative survey. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 511:105–116CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Kramer MJ, Bellwood O, Fulton CJ, Bellwood DR (2015) Refining the invertivore: diversity and specialisation in fish predation on coral reef crustaceans. Mar Biol 162:1779–1786CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Lawrence SG, Malley DF, Findlay WJ, Maclver MA, Delbaere IL (1987) Method for estimating dry weight of freshwater planktonic crustaceans from measures of length and shape. Can J Fish Aquat Sci 44:s264–s274CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Leum LL, Choat JH (1980) Density and distribution patterns of the temperate marine fish Cheilodactylus spectabilis; (Cheilodactylidae) in a reef environment. Mar Biol 57:327–337CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Logan D, Townsend KA, Townsend K, Tibbetts IR (2008) Meiofauna sediment relations in leeward slope turf algae of Heron Island reef. Hydrobiologia 610:269–276CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Martin-Smith KM (1993) Abundance of mobile epifauna — the role of habitat complexity and predation by fishes. J Exp Mar Bio Ecol 174:243–260CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Montagna PA, Blanchard GF, Dinet A (1995) Effect of production and biomass of intertidal microphytobenthos on meiofaunal grazing rates. J Exp Mar Bio Ecol 185:149–165CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Nash KL, Graham NAJ, Jennings S, Wilson SK, Bellwood DR (2016) Herbivore cross-scale redundancy supports response diversity and promotes coral reef resilience. J Appl Ecol 53:646–655CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Newcombe EM, Taylor RB (2010) Trophic cascade in a seaweed–epifauna–fish food chain. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 408:161–167CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Plaisance L, Knowlton N, Paulay G, Meyer C (2009) Reef-associated crustacean fauna: biodiversity estimates using semi-quantitative sampling and DNA barcoding. Coral Reefs 28:977–986CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Pratchett MS (2001) Influence of coral symbionts on feeding preferences of crown-of-thorns starfish Acanthaster planci in the western Pacific. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 214:111–119CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Preston NP, Doherty PJ (1994) Cross-shelf patterns in the community structure of coral-dwelling Crustacea in the central region of the Great Barrier Reef. II. Cryptofauna. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 104:27–38CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Randall JE, Allen GR, Steene RC (1997) Fishes of the Great Barrier Reef and Coral Sea. University of Hawaii Press, Honolulu, HawaiiGoogle Scholar
  53. Ricciardi A, Bourget E (1998) Weight-to-weight conversion factors for marine benthic macroinvertebrates. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 163:245–251CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Ruppert EE, Fox RS, Barnes RD (2004) Invertebrate zoology: a functional evolutionary approach. Thompson-Brooks/Cole, Belmont, CAGoogle Scholar
  55. Russell BC (1983) The food and feeding habits of rocky reef fish of north-eastern New Zealand. New Zealand Journal of Marine and Freshwater Research 17:121–145CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Stella JS, Munday PL, Jones GP (2011a) Effects of coral bleaching on the obligate coral-dwelling crab Trapezia cymodoce. Coral Reefs 30:719–727CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Stella JS, Pratchett MS, Hutchings PA, Jones GP (2011b) Coral-associated invertebrates: diversity, ecological importance and vulnerability to disturbance. Oceanogr Mar Biol Annu Rev 49:43–104Google Scholar
  58. Taylor RB (1998) Density, biomass and productivity of animals in four subtidal rocky reef habitats: the importance of small mobile invertebrates. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 172:37–51CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Taylor RB (2015) Small free-living crustaceans. In: Thiel M, Watling L (eds) The natural history of the Crustacea, vol 2., Lifestyles and feeding biologyOxford University Press, United Kingdom, pp 229–261Google Scholar
  60. Taylor RB, Cole RG (1994) Mobile epifauna on subtidal brown seaweeds in northeastern New Zealand. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 115:271–282CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Tebbett SB, Goatley CHR, Bellwood DR (2017a) Clarifying functional roles: algal removal by the surgeonfishes Ctenochaetus striatus and Acanthurus nigrofuscus. Coral Reefs. doi: 10.1007/s00338-017-1571-z Google Scholar
  62. Tebbett SB, Goatley CHR, Bellwood DR (2017b) Fine sediments suppress detritivory on coral reefs. Mar Pollut Bull 114:934–940CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  63. Titford ME, Horenstein MG (2005) Histomorphologic assessment of formalin substitute fixatives for diagnostic surgical pathology. Arch Pathol Lab Med 129:502–506PubMedGoogle Scholar
  64. Uthicke S, Klumpp DW (1998) Microphytobenthos community production at a near-shore coral reef: seasonal variation and response to ammonium recycled by holothurians. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 169:1–11CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. van Guelpen L, Markle DF, Duggan DJ (1982) An evaluation of accuracy, precision, and speed of several zooplankton subsampling techniques. ICES J Mar Sci 40:226–236CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Wild C, Rasheed M, Jantzen C, Cook P, Struck U, Huettel M, Boetius A (2005) Benthic metabolism and degradation of natural particulate organic matter in carbonate and silicate reef sands of the northern Red Sea. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 298:69–78CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. 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 Annu Rev 41:279–309Google Scholar
  68. Wing WR, Wing L (2015) Ontogenetic shifts in resource use by the sea urchin Evechinus chloroticus across an ecotone. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 535:177–184CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. Wismer S, Hoey AS, Bellwood DR (2009) Cross-shelf benthic community structure on the Great Barrier Reef: relationships between macroalgal cover and herbivore biomass. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 376:45–54CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef StudiesJames Cook UniversityTownsvilleAustralia
  2. 2.College of Science and EngineeringJames Cook UniversityTownsvilleAustralia
  3. 3.Leigh Marine Laboratory, Institute of Marine ScienceUniversity of AucklandWarkworthNew Zealand

Personalised recommendations