Coral Reefs

, Volume 31, Issue 4, pp 1007–1015 | Cite as

Cryptofauna of the epilithic algal matrix on an inshore coral reef, Great Barrier Reef

  • M. J. KramerEmail author
  • D. R. Bellwood
  • O. Bellwood


Composed of a collection of algae, detritus, sediment and invertebrates, the epilithic algal matrix (EAM) is an abundant and ubiquitous feature of coral reefs. Despite its prevalence, there is a paucity of information regarding its associated invertebrate fauna. The cryptofaunal invertebrate community of the EAM was quantitatively investigated in Pioneer Bay on Orpheus Island, Great Barrier Reef. Using a vacuum collection method, a diversity of organisms representing 10 different phyla were identified. Crustacea dominated the samples, with harpacticoid copepods being particularly abundant (2025 ± 132 100 cm−2; mean density ± SE). The volume of coarse particulate matter in the EAM was strongly correlated with the abundance of harpacticoid copepods. The estimated biomass of harpacticoid copepods (0.48 ± 0.05 g m−2; wet weight) suggests that this group is likely to be important for reef trophodynamics and nutrient cycling.


Crustacea Harpacticoid copepods Trophodynamics Turf algae Benthic community 



We wish to thank S Leahy, C Lefévre, J Welsh and staff of Orpheus Island Research Station for their support in the field; J Kidgell, J Leonhardt, J Levy, T Sih, K Stegemann and J Welsh for their valuable assistance in processing samples; J Tanner for comments and criticisms on final drafts of the manuscript; and five anonymous reviewers for their helpful suggestions. This work was supported by the Australian Research Council (D.R.B.).

Supplementary material

338_2012_924_MOESM1_ESM.doc (150 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOC 149 kb)


  1. Ajiboye O, Yakubu A, Adams T, Olaji E, Nwogu N (2011) A review of the use of copepods in marine fish larviculture. Rev Fish Biol Fish 21:225–246CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Alldredge AL, King JM (1977) Distribution, abundance, and substrate preferences of demersal zooplankton at Lizard Island lagoon, Great Barrier Reef. Mar Biol 41:317–333CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Bellwood DR (1988) Ontogenetic changes in the diet of early post-settlement Scarus species (Pices, Scaridae). J Fish Biol 33:213–219CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bellwood DR, Fulton CJ (2008) Sediment-mediated suppression of herbivory on coral reefs: Decreasing resilience to rising sea levels and climate change? Limnol Oceanogr 53:2695–2701CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Blanchard GF (1991) Measurement of meiofauna grazing rates on microphytobenthos: is primary production a limiting factor? J Exp Mar Biol Ecol 147:37–46CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Bonaldo R, Bellwood D (2011) Spatial variation in the effects of grazing on epilithic algal turfs on the Great Barrier Reef, Australia. Coral Reefs 30:381–390Google Scholar
  7. Buffan-Dubau E, Carman KR (2000) Diel feeding behavior of meiofauna and their relationships with microalgal resources. Limnol Oceanogr 45:381–395CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Buffan-Dubau E, de Wit R, Castel J (1996) Feeding selectivity of the harpacticoid copepod Canuella perplexa in benthic muddy environments demonstrated by HPLC analyses of chlorin and carotenoid pigments. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 137:71–82CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Calder WA (1984) Size, function and life history. Harvard University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  10. 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
  11. Carman KR, Thistle D (1985) Microbial food partitioning by three species of benthic copepods. Mar Biol 88:143–148CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Choat JH, Clements KD, Robbins WD (2002) The trophic status of herbivorous fishes on coral reefs I: Dietary analyses. Mar Biol 140:613–623CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Coull BC (1990) Are members of the meiofauna food for higher trophic levels? Trans Am Microsc Soc 109:233–246CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Coull BC, Wells JBJ (1983) Refuges from fish predation: Experiments with phytal meiofauna from the New Zealand rocky intertidal. Ecology 64:1599–1609CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Cutts CJ (2003) Culture of harpacticoid copepods: Potential as live feed for rearing marine fish. Adv Mar Biol 44:295–316PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Damuth J (1981) Population density and body size in mammals. Nature 290:699–700CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Danovaro R, Fraschetti S (2002) Meiofaunal vertical zonation on hard-bottoms: comparison with soft-bottom meiofauna. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 230:159–169CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Depczynski M, Bellwood DR (2003) The role of cryptobenthic reef fishes in coral reef trophodynamics. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 256:183–191CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Depczynski M, Fulton C, Marnane M, Bellwood DR (2007) Life history patterns shape energy allocation among fishes on coral reefs. Oecologia 153:111–120PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Dumont HJ, Velde I, Dumont S (1975) The dry weight estimate of biomass in a selection of Cladocera, Copepoda and Rotifera from the plankton, periphyton and benthos of continental waters. Oecologia 19:75–97CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Edgar GJ, Shaw C (1995) 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 Biol Ecol 194:83–106CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. 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
  23. Enochs IC, Manzello DP (2012) Species richness of motile cryptofauna across a gradient of framework erosion. Coral Reefs doi:  10.1007/s00338-012-0886-z
  24. Enochs I, Toth L, Brandtneris V, Afflerbach J, Manzello D (2011) Environmental determinants of motile cryptofauna on an eastern Pacific coral reef. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 438:105–118CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Folkers C, George K (2011) Community analysis of sublittoral Harpacticoida (Copepoda, Crustacea) in the western Baltic Sea. Hydrobiologia 666:11–20CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Fox RJ, Bellwood DR (2007) Quantifying herbivory across a coral reef depth gradient. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 339:49–59CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Fredette TJ, Diaz RJ, Montfrans JV, Orth RJ (1990) Secondary production within a seagrass Bed (Zostera marina and Ruppia maritima) in Lower Chesapeake Bay. Estuaries 13:431–440CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Friedlander AM, Parrish JD (1998) Habitat characteristics affecting fish assemblages on a Hawaiian coral reef. J Exp Mar Biol Ecol 224:1–30CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Gheerardyn H, De Troch M, Ndaro SGM, Raes M, Vincx M, Vanreusel A (2008) Community structure and microhabitat preferences of harpacticoid copepods in a tropical reef lagoon (Zanzibar Island, Tanzania). J Mar Biol Assoc UK 88:747–758CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Gibbons MJ (1988) The impact of sediment accumulations, relative habitat complexity and elevation on rocky shore meiofauna. J Exp Mar Biol Ecol 122:225–241CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Goatley CHR, Bellwood DR (2011) The roles of dimensionality, canopies and complexity in ecosystem monitoring. PLoS One 6:e27307PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Harris R (1977) Some aspects of the biology of the harpacticoid copepod Scottolana canadensis (Willey), maintained in laboratory culture. Chesap Sci 18:245–252CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Hicks GRF (1980) Structure of phytal harpacticoid copepod assemblages and the influence of habitat complexity and turbidity. J Exp Mar Biol Ecol 44:157–192CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Kitting CL, Fry B, Morgan MD (1984) Detection of inconspicuous epiphytic algae supporting food webs in seagrass meadows. Oecologia 62:145–149CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Klumpp DW, McKinnon AD (1989) Temporal and spatial patterns in primary production of a coral-reef epilithic algal community. J Exp Mar Biol Ecol 131:1–22CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Klumpp DW, McKinnon AD (1992) Community structure, biomass and productivity of epilithic algal communities on the Great Barrier Reef: Dynamics at different spatial scales. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 86:77–89CrossRefGoogle 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. 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
  39. Lopez GR, Levinton JS (1987) Ecology of deposit-feeding animals in marine sediments. Q Rev Biol 62:235–260CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. MacIntyre HL, Geider RJ, Miller DC (1996) Microphytobenthos: The ecological role of the “secret garden” of unvegetated, shallow-water marine habitats. I. Distribution, abundance and primary production. Estuaries 19:186–201CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Montagna PA, Blanchard GF, Dinet A (1995) Effect of production and biomass of intertidal microphytobenthos on meiofaunal grazing rates. J Exp Mar Biol Ecol 185:149–165CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Omori M (1969) Weight and chemical composition of some important oceanic zooplankton in the North Pacific Ocean. Mar Biol 3:4–10CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Peyrot-Clausade M (1980) Motile cryptofauna of Tulear reef flats. Mar Biol 59:43–47CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. 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
  45. Purcell SW (1996) A direct method for assessing sediment load in epilithic algal communities. Coral Reefs 15:211–213Google Scholar
  46. Purcell SW, Bellwood DR (2001) Spatial patterns of epilithic algal and detrital resources on a windward coral reef. Coral Reefs 20:117–125CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Rogers CS (1990) Responses of coral reefs and reef organisms to sedimentation. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 62:185–202CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Roman MR, Furnas MJ, Mullin MM (1990) Zooplankton abundance and grazing at Davies Reef, Great Barrier Reef, Australia. Mar Biol 105:73–82CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Scott FJ, Russ GR (1987) Effects of grazing on species composition of the epilithic algal community on coral reefs of the central Great Barrier Reef. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 39:293–304CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Stella JS, Jones GP, Pratchett MS (2010) Variation in the structure of epifaunal invertebrate assemblages among coral hosts. Coral Reefs 29:957–973CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Syms C, Jones GP (2000) Disturbance, habitat structure, and the dynamics of a coral-reef fish community. Ecology 81:2714–2729CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Takada Y, Abe O, Shibuno T (2008) Cryptic assemblages in coral-rubble interstices along a terrestrial-sediment gradient. Coral Reefs 27:665–675CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. 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
  54. Tipton K, Bell SS (1988) Foraging patterns of two syngnathid fishes - importance of harpacticoid copepods. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 47:31–43CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Vytopil E, Willis BL (2001) Epifaunal community structure in Acropora spp. (Scleractinia) on the Great Barrier Reef: implications of coral morphology and habitat complexity. Coral Reefs 20:281–288CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Wilson SK (2000) Trophic status and feeding selectivity of blennies (Blenniidae: Salariini). Mar Biol 136:431–437CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Wilson SK (2004) Growth, mortality and turnover rates of a small detritivorous fish. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 284:253–259CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Wilson SK, Bellwood DR (1997) Cryptic dietary components of territorial damselfishes (Pomacentridae, Labroidei). Mar Ecol Prog Ser 153:299–310CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. 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
  60. Wilson SK, Graham N, Polunin N (2006) Appraisal of visual assessments of habitat complexity and benthic composition on coral reefs. Mar Biol 151:1069–1076CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Wittenberg M, Hunte W (1992) Effects of eutrophication and sedimentation on juvenile corals. 1. Abundance, mortality and community structure. Mar Biol 112:131–138CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Zeller DC (1988) Short-term effects of territoriality of a tropical damselfish and experimental exclusion of large fishes on invertebrates in algal turfs. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 44:85–93CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Marine and Tropical BiologyJames Cook UniversityTownsvilleAustralia
  2. 2.Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef StudiesJames Cook UniversityTownsvilleAustralia

Personalised recommendations