Locomotion in labrid fishes: implications for habitat use and cross-shelf biogeography on the Great Barrier Reef
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Coral reefs exhibit marked zonation patterns within single reefs and across continental shelves. For sessile organisms these zones are often related to wave exposure. We examined the extent to which wave exposure may shape the distribution patterns of fishes. We documented the distribution of 98 species of wrasses and parrotfishes at 33 sites across the Great Barrier Reef. The greatest difference between labrid assemblages was at the habitat level, with exposed reef flats and crests on mid- and outer reefs possessing a distinct faunal assemblage. These exposed sites were dominated by individuals with high pectoral fin aspect ratios, i.e. fishes believed to be capable of lift-based swimming which often achieve high speeds. Overall, there was a strong correlation between estimated swimming performance, as indicated by fin aspect ratio, and degree of water movement. We propose that swimming performance in fishes limits access to high-energy locations and may be a significant factor influencing habitat use and regional biogeography of reef fishes.
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