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Spatial patterns of cryptobenthic coral-reef fishes in the Red Sea

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Surveys to document coral-reef fish assemblages are often limited to visually conspicuous species, thus excluding a significant proportion of the biodiversity. Through standardized collections of cryptobenthic reef fishes in the central and southern Red Sea, a total of 238 species and operational taxonomic units (OTUs) from 35 families were collected. Abundance and species richness increased by 60 and 30%, respectively, from north to south, and fish community composition differed between the two regions and with proximity to shore in the central region. Models suggest regional influences in fish communities, with latitudinal patterns influenced by key coral groups (Acropora, Pocilloporidae) and variation in environmental parameters (chlorophyll a, sea surface temperature, salinity). This study illustrates the limited taxonomic resolution in this group and in this region, and the need to expand baseline data for this under-studied assemblage. To assist in advancing this initiative, we have produced a catalogue of specimens, archived photographs, and established a DNA sequence library based on cytochrome-c oxidase subunit-I barcodes for all OTUs.

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This study was funded the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology Office of Competitive Research Funding under Award No. CRG-1-2012-BER-002 and baseline research funds to M.L.B. The authors would like to acknowledge Dream Divers, KAUST Coastal and Marine Resources Core Lab. We are also grateful to Malek Amr Gusti, Alex Kattan, Katia Nicolet, and May Roberts for their assistance in the field and important contributions from Luiz Rocha and David Catania for facilitating specimen archiving at the California Academy of Sciences, and the KAUST Bioscience Core Laboratory for their support with DNA sequencing. This manuscript was greatly improved by feedback from Andrew Hoey, Simon Brandl, and two anonymous reviewers.

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Correspondence to Darren J. Coker.

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Communicated by Biology Editor Dr. Andrew Hoey

Electronic supplementary material

Below is the link to the electronic supplementary material.

ESM Methods

Detailed description of field sampling, community analysis, environmental models, as well as DNA extraction, sequencing, and BLAST protocols (DOCX 22 kb)

Table S1

Genetic voucher information and species assignments for individuals collected in this study (XLS 506 kb)

Fig. S1

Principal components analysis plot of each station (1–28) based on benthic variables within each station (EPS 1174 kb)

Fig. S2

Potential new shorefish records for the Red Sea. a Chromis cf. agilis, b Thalassoma cf. lutescens, c Gymnothorax cf. margaritophorus (JPEG 1650 kb)

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Coker, D.J., DiBattista, J.D., Sinclair-Taylor, T.H. et al. Spatial patterns of cryptobenthic coral-reef fishes in the Red Sea. Coral Reefs 37, 193–199 (2018).

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