Environmental Biology of Fishes

, Volume 78, Issue 2, pp 147–160 | Cite as

Reef fish community structure on coastal islands of the southeastern Brazil: the influence of exposure and benthic cover

  • Sergio R. FloeterEmail author
  • Werther Krohling
  • João Luiz Gasparini
  • Carlos E. L. Ferreira
  • Ilana R. Zalmon
Original Paper


Patterns of community structure in the marine environment are strongly influenced by population relationships to biotic and physical gradients. The aim of this work is to explore the relationships of tropical rocky reef fish assemblages to wave exposure and benthic coverage in a gradient of distance from the coast. The study was conducted on the Guarapari Islands, southeastern Brazilian coast. Fish were sampled by underwater visual census (166 transects) and benthic cover was estimated with quadrats (223 replicates). Two main kinds of habitats were found to be derived from the close interrelation between exposure and benthic coverage: (1) exposed areas subjected to major hydrodynamic forcing, and (2) sheltered or moderately exposed areas. The first group is associated with mid-water schooling species like planktivorous labrids and Chromis, piscivorous Caranx, as well as gregarious omnivores like Abudefduf and Diplodus. In terms of benthic composition, macroalgae and encrusting calcareous algae prevail in this high-energy habitat. The second group is characterized by site-attached and reef associated species like territorial pomacentrids, invertebrate feeders such as Halichoeres poeyi and Chaetodon striatus, and small cryptobenthic fishes (e.g. blenniids and labrisomids). Turf algae, zoanthids and massive corals dominate this environment. Environmental plasticity is also common with some genera showing high abundances in all habitats (e.g. Holocentrus, Haemulon, Acanthurus). Examples of the coupling of food availability and fish abundance were found. Planktivores, territorial herbivores, macroalgae browsers and spongivores were positively related with the abundance of their preferred food items along the exposure gradient. Within-family analyses of Pomacentridae and Labridae showed that niche partitioning is likely occurring and seems to be mediated by swimming ‘ability’ and associated feeding performance.


Rocky shore Wave exposure gradient Feeding behavior Reef fish 


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We thank the support from the Floeter, Krohling and Gasparini families all along the way. Essential financial support from Universidade Estadual do Norte Fluminense, Fundação O Boticário de Proteção à Natureza and PADI Project AWARE Foundation. Vitor Vidal, Júlio Yaber (Atlantes), Silvia Gandolfi, J-C Joyeux for helping in fieldwork. Viviane Testa, Osmar Luiz- Júnior, Ivan Sazima, Phil Munday and David Bellwood for exchanging ideas. This work was part of the first author's PhD Thesis and was partly conducted while S.R.F. was a Postdoctoral Associate at the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis, a center funded by NSF (Grant DEB-0072909) and the University of California, Santa Barbara.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sergio R. Floeter
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Werther Krohling
    • 1
  • João Luiz Gasparini
    • 3
  • Carlos E. L. Ferreira
    • 4
  • Ilana R. Zalmon
    • 1
  1. 1.Laboratório de Ciências AmbientaisUniversidade Estadual do Norte FluminenseCampos dos GoytacazesBrazil
  2. 2.Departamento de Ecologia e Zoologia–CCBUniversidade Federal de Santa CatarinaFloriano´polisBrazil
  3. 3.Departamento de Ecologia e Recursos NaturaisUniversidade Federal do Espírito SantoVitóriaBrazil
  4. 4.Departamento de Biologia MarinhaUniversidade Federal FluminenseNiteróiBrazil

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