The ways in which the distributions of six species of whiting (Sillaginidae) in the coastal marine waters of south-western Australia are related to the type of substrate (bare sand vs. seagrass), degree of exposure of habitat, water depth and body size have been investigated. Whiting in near shore waters (< 1.5 m) were sampled using a fine-meshed seine net, while those in ‘shallow’ (5–15 m) and ‘deep’ (20–35 m) waters of the inner continental shelf were sampled with a trawl net. Shallow nearshore waters are shown to provide nursery habitats for five of the six whiting species. In these waters, Sillaginodes punctata, Sillago burrus, Sillago schomburgkii and Sillago vittata mainly occur in protected areas, while Sillago bassensis predominantly occupies areas that are more exposed to wave and swell activity. The first three of these species also use estuaries as nursery areas. In nearshore waters, whiting were captured almost exclusively over bare sand, rather than in interpersed beds of the seagrass Posidonia spp., presumably reflecting the fact that the dense canopies produced by the wide blades of Posidonia spp. must inhibit penetration by the benthic whiting species. As 0 + S. punctata increase in size, they tend to move offshore during the day and inshore at night. Many mature representatives of S. schomburgkii are present in nearshore areas, whereas the other four species move offshore into inner-shelf waters as they increase in length. Sillago burrus and S. vittata remain in shallow inner-shelf waters, whereas the larger S. bassensis subsequently migrate into deeper inner-shelf waters. Large Sillago bassensis thus co-occurs with Sillago robusta, which is mainly found in those deeper waters, but does not reach as large a size. The larger S. punctata occupy areas near reefs which could not be sampled by trawl netting. There are thus interspecific differences in (i) the times of recruitment of the 0 + age class into nearshore areas, (ii) the types of habitat occupied during juvenile and adult life, and (iii) the degree to which fish move into more offshore waters as they increase in length, and one species is restricted to deeper waters. The resultant partial segregation among habitats of the coastal waters of south-western Australia by different size groups of these relatively abundant whiting species presumably reduces the potential for intra- and interspecific competition amongst these species.
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Hyndes, G.A., Potter, I.C. & Lenanton, R.C.J. Habitat partitioning by whiting species (Sillaginidae) in coastal waters. Environ Biol Fish 45, 21–40 (1996). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00000625
- Body size
- Nursery areas
- Diel movements