Coral Reefs

, Volume 31, Issue 3, pp 653–661 | Cite as

Species richness of motile cryptofauna across a gradient of reef framework erosion

  • I. C. EnochsEmail author
  • D. P. Manzello


Coral reef ecosystems contain exceptionally high concentrations of marine biodiversity, potentially encompassing millions of species. Similar to tropical rainforests and their insects, the majority of reef animal species are small and cryptic, living in the cracks and crevices of structural taxa (trees and corals). Although the cryptofauna make up the majority of a reef’s metazoan biodiversity, we know little about their basic ecology. We sampled motile cryptofaunal communities from both live corals and dead carbonate reef framework across a gradient of increasing erosion on a reef in Pacific Panamá. A total of 289 Operational Taxonomic Units (OTUs) from six phyla were identified. We used species-accumulation models fitted to individual- and sample-based rarefaction curves, as well as seven nonparametric richness estimators to estimate species richness among the different framework types. All procedures predicted the same trends in species richness across the differing framework types. Estimated species richness was higher in dead framework (261–370 OTUs) than in live coral substrates (112–219 OTUs). Surprisingly, richness increased as framework structure was eroded: coral rubble contained the greatest number of species (227–320 OTUs) and the lowest estimated richness of 47–115 OTUs was found in the zone where the reef framework had the greatest vertical relief. This contradicts the paradigm that abundant live coral indicates the apex of reef diversity.


Reef framework structure Biodiversity Rarefaction Rubble Eastern tropical Pacific 



We gratefully acknowledge the knowledge and advice of P. Glynn, the field support of V. Brandtneris and L. Toth, the identifications of A. Anker, A. Baeza, R. Brusca, Y. Camacho Garcia, G. Coan, J. Garcia-Gomez, G. Hendler, R. Lemaitre, H. Lessios, J. Llopiz, G. Paulay, L. Harris, A. Schulze, E. Schwabe, J. Thomas, and P. Valentich-Scott, as well as the laboratory assistance of J. Afflerbach, I. Chambers, A. Goodson, A. Gracie, D. Graham, A. Jung, J. Kelly, N. Kraft, L. O’Neill, A. Mallozzi, A. Pflaumer, and S. Thompson. A. Bakun, P. Glynn, C. Langdon, D. Lirman, and B. Riegl provided manuscript advice. Financial support for this project was provided by the American Museum of Natural History Lerner-Gray Fund and a National Science Foundation grant to Peter W. Glynn, #OCE-0526361. Collection of specimens was approved by the Autoridad Nacional del Ambiente (ANAM). Two anonymous reviewers and topic editor H. Sweatman greatly improved the manuscript. M. Reaka deserves special acknowledgement for helping us understand the myriad of factors responsible for our findings.

Supplementary material

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Supplementary material 1 (EPS 2770 kb)
338_2012_886_MOESM2_ESM.doc (20 kb)
Supplementary material 2 (DOC 22 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Cooperative Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Studies, Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric ScienceUniversity of MiamiMiamiUSA
  2. 2.Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratories (AOML)National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)MiamiUSA

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