Patterns of Movement in Intertidal Fishes

  • Robin N. Gibson
Part of the NATO ASI Series book series (NSSA, volume 151)


The intertidal zone frequently represents a rich source of food and shelter and as such is inhabited by a wide variety of animals. Many of them are able to withstand the changing environmental conditions and live there continuously. Others, lacking this ability, avoid the zone at low tide and occupy the area only when it is immersed. This basic difference allows intertidal animals to be broadly categorized as either residents or visitors. The greater motility of fishes compared with most other intertidal animals enables them to employ a wide range of behaviour patterns for exploiting the intertidal zone, although the majority tend to be visitors. There are, however, large numbers of fishes whose movements are more limited in extent and which can be regarded as resident intertidal animals for most of their lives. This paper briefly reviews the activity patterns of both categories of fishes in relation to their function and discusses whether such patterns can be regarded as special adaptations to intertidal life. The examples used to illustrate particular behaviour patterns are not exhaustive because full reviews of the biology and behaviour of intertidal fishes are given elsewhere (Gibson, 1982a, 1986a).


Intertidal Zone Rocky Shore Resident Species Rock Pool Littoral Fish 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Abel, E.F., 1973. Zur Oko-Ethologie des amphibisch lebenden Fisches Alticus saliens (Forster) und von Entomacrodus vermiculatus (Val.) (Blennioidea, Salariidae) unter besondere Berucksichtigung des Fortpflanzungsverhaltens. Sbr. ost. Akad. Wiss., Abt. I, 181, 137–153.Google Scholar
  2. Anderson, W.D. Jr., J.K. Dias, D.M. Kupka & N.A. Chamberlain, 1977. The macrofauna of the surf zone off Folly Beach, South Carolina. NOAA Tech. Rep. NMFS SSRF-704, 1–23.Google Scholar
  3. Aronson, L.R., 1951. Orientation and jumping behaviour in the gobioid fish Bathygobius soporator. Am. Mus Novitat., No. 1486, 1–22.Google Scholar
  4. Aronson, L.R., 1971. Further studies on orientation and jumping behaviour in the gobioid fish Bathygobius soporator. Ann. N.Y. Acad. Sci., 188, 378–392.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Beckley, L.E., 1985. Tide-pool fishes: recolonization after experimental elimination. J. exp. mar. Biol. Ecol., 85, 287–295.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Behrents, K.C., 1987. The influence of shelter availability on recruitment and early juvenile survivorship of Lythrypnus dalli Gilbert (Pisces: Gobiidae). J. exp. mar. Biol. Ecol., 107, 45–59.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Berghahn, R., 1983. Untersuchungen an Plattfischen und Nordseegarnelen (Crangon crangon) im Eulittoral des Wattenmeeres nach dem Ubergang zum Bodenleben. Helgolander Meeresunters., 36, 136–181.Google Scholar
  8. Blaxter, J.H.S. & J.R. Hunter, 1982. The biology of the clupeoid fishes. Adv. mar. Biol., 20, 3–223.Google Scholar
  9. Brillet, C., 1975. Relations entre territoire et comportement aggressif chez Periophthalmus sobrinus Eggert (Pisces, Periophthalmidae) au laboratoire et en milieu natural. Z. Tierpsychol., 39, 283–331.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Bussing, W.A., 1972. Recolonisation of a population of supratidal fishes at Eniwetok atoll, Marshall Islands. Atoll Res. Bull., No. 154, 1–4.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Cancino, J.M. & J.C. Castilla, 1987. Emersion behaviour and foraging ecology of the common Chilean clingfish Sicyases sanguineus (Pisces: Gobiesocidae). J. nat. Hist., in press. Carlisle, D.B., 1961. Intertidal territory in fish. Anim. Behav., 9, 106–107.Google Scholar
  12. Clayton, D.A. & T.C. Vaughan, 1982. Pentagonal territories of the mud-skipper Boleophthalmus boddarti (Pisces, Gobiidae). Copeia 1982, 232–234.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Craik, G.J.S., 1981. The effects of age and length on homing performance in the intertidal cottid, Oligocottus maculosus Girard. Can. J. Zool., 59, 589–604.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Davenport, J. & A.D. Woolmington, 1981. Behavioural responses of some rocky shore fishes exposed to adverse environmental conditions. Mar. Behav. Physiol., 8, 112.Google Scholar
  15. Fishelson, L., 1963. Observations on littoral fishes of Israel. I. Behaviour of Blennius pavo Risso (Teleostei, Blenniidae) Israel J. Zool., 12, 67–80.Google Scholar
  16. Gibson, R.N., 1967. Studies on the movements of littoral fish. J. Anim. Ecol., 36, 215–234.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Gibson, R.N., 1969. The biology and behaviour of littoral fish. Oceanogr. Mar. Biol. Annu. Rev., 7, 367–410.Google Scholar
  18. Gibson, R.N., 1971. Factors affecting the rhythmic activity of Blennius pholis L. (Teleostei). Anim. Behav., 19, 336–343.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Gibson R.N., 1972. The vertical distribution and feeding relationships of intertidal fish on the Atlantic coast of France. J. Anim. Ecol., 41, 189–207.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Gibson, R.N., 1973. The intertidal movements and distribution of young fish on a sandy beach with special reference to the plaice (Pleuronectes platessa L.). J. exp. mar. Biol. Ecol., 12, 79–102.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Gibson, R.N., 1975. A comparison of field and laboratory activity patterns of juvenile plaice. In H. Barnes (ed.) Proc. 9th Europ. mar. Biol. Symp., Aberdeen University Press, Aberdeen, 13–28.Google Scholar
  22. Gibson, R.N., 1978. Lunar and tidal rhythms in fish. In J.E. Thorpe (ed) Rhythmic activity of fishes. Academic Press, London, 201–213.Google Scholar
  23. Gibson, R.N., 1982a. Recent studies on the biology of intertidal fishes. Oceanogr. Mar. Biol. Annu. Rev., 20, 363–414.Google Scholar
  24. Gibson, R.N., 1982b. The effect of hydrostatic pressure cycles on the activity of young plaice Pleuronectes platessa. J. mar. biol. Ass. U.K., 62, 621–635.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Gibson, R.N., 1983. Hydrostatic pressure and the rhythmic behaviour of intertidal marine fishes. Trans. Am. Fish. Soc., 113, 479–483.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Gibson, R.N., 1986a. Intertidal teleosts: Life in a fluctuating environment. In T.J. Pitcher (ed.) The behaviour of teleost fishes. Croom Helm Ltd., Beckenham, 388–408.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Gibson, R.N., 1986b. Observations on the behaviour of young plaice on sandy beaches. Prog. Underwat. Sci., 11, 27–32.Google Scholar
  28. Gibson, R.N., J.H.S. Blaxter & S.J. De Groot, 1978. Developmental changes in the activity rhythms of the plaice (Pleuronectes platessa L.). In J.E. Thorpe (ed.) Rhythmic activity of fishes. Academic Press, London, 169–186.Google Scholar
  29. Graham, J.B., 1970. Preliminary studies on the biology of the amphibious clinid Mnierpes macrocephalus. Mar. Biol., 6, 136–140.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Graham, J.B., C.B. Jones & I. Rubinoff, 1985. Behavioural, physiological and ecological aspects of the amphibious life of the pearl blenny Entomacrodus nigricans Gill. J. exp. mar. Biol. Ecol., 89, 255–268.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Green, J.M., 1971a. Local distribution of Oligocottus maculosus Girard and other tidepool cottids on the west coast of Vancouver Island, British Columbia. Can. J. Zool., 49, 1111–1128.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Green, J.M., 1971b. High tide movements and homing behaviour of the tidepool sculpin Oligocottus maculosus. J. Fish. Res. Bd Can., 28, 383–389.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Green, J.M., 1971c. Field and laboratory activity patterns of the tidepool cottid Oligocottus maculosus Girard. Can. J. Zool., 49, 255–264.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Green, J.M., 1973. Evidence for homing in the mosshead sculpin (Clinocottus globiceps). J. Fish. Res. Bd Can., 30, 129–130.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Healey, M.C., 1971. The distribution and abundance of sand gobies, Gobius minutus, in the Ythan estuary. J. Zool., Lond., 163, 177–229.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Horn, M.H. & K.C. Riegle, 1981. Evaporative water loss and intertidal vertical distribution in relation to body size and morphology of stichaeoid fishes from California. J. exp. mar. Biol. Ecol., 50, 273–288.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Ishibashi, T., 1973. The behavioural rhythms of the gobioid fish Boleophthalmus chinensis (Osbeck). Fukuoka Univ. Sci. Rep., 2, 69–74.Google Scholar
  38. Khoo, H.W., 1974. Sensory basis of homing in the intertidal fish Oligocottus maculosus Girard. Can. J. Zool., 52, 1023–1029.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Kleypas, J. & J.M. Dean, 1983. Migration and feeding of the predatory fish, Bairdiella chrysura Lacepede, in an intertidal creek. J. exp. mar. Biol. Ecol., 72, 199–209.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Kneib, R.T., 1984. Patterns of invertebrate distribution and abundance in an intertidal saltmarsh: causes and questions. Estuaries, 7, 392–412.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Kneib, R.T., 1987. Predation risk and use of intertidal habitats by young fishes and shrimp. Ecology, 68, 379–386.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Kuipers, B., 1973. On the tidal migration of young plaice (Pleuronectes platessa L.) in the Wadden Sea. Neth. J. Sea Res., 6, 376–388.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Magnus, D.B.E., 1963. Alticus saliens, ein amphibisch lebender Fisch. Natur Mus., 93, 128–132.Google Scholar
  44. Marliave, J.B., 1986. Lack of planktonic dispersal of rocky intertidal fish larvae. Trans. Am. Fish. Soc., 115, 149–154.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Marsh, B., T.M. Crowe & W.R. Siegfried, 1978. Species richness and abundance of clinid fish (Teleostei; Clinidae) in intertidal rock pools. Zoologica Afr., 13, 283–291.Google Scholar
  46. Nakamura, R., 1976. Experimental assessment of factors influencing micro-habitat selection by the two tidepool fishes Oligocottus maculosus and O. snyderi. Mar. Biol., 37, 87–104.Google Scholar
  47. Nishikawa, M. & T. Ishibashi, 1975. Entrainment of the activity rhythm by the cycle of feeding in the mudskipper, Periophthalmus cantonensis (Osbeck). Zool. Mag. Tokyo, 84, 184–189.Google Scholar
  48. Phillips, R.R. & S.B. Swears, 1979. Social hierarchy, shelter use, and the avoidance of predatory toadfish (Opsanus tau) by the striped blenny (Chasmodes bosquianus). Anim. Behav., 27, 1113–1121.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Potts, G.W., 1980. The littoral fishes of Little Cayman (West Indies). Atoll Res. Bull., No. 241, 43–52.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Potts, G.W., 1985. The nest structure of the corkwing wrasse, Crenilabrus melops (Labridae: Teleostei). J. mar. biol. Ass. U.K., 65, 531–546.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Potts, G.W. & K.M. McGuigan, 1986. A preliminary survey of the distribution of postlarval fish associated with inshore reefs with special reference to Gobiusculus flavescens (Fabricius). Prog. Underwat. Sci., 11, 15–25.Google Scholar
  52. Ralston, S.L. & M.H. Horn, 1986. High tide movements of the temperate zone herbivorous fish Cebidichthys violaceus (Girard) as determined by ultrasonic telemetry. J. exp. mar. Biol. Ecol., 98, 35–50.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Richkus, W.A., 1981. A quantitative study of intertidepool movement of the wooly sculpin Clinocottus analis. Mar. Biol., 49, 277–284.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Riley, J.D., 1973. Movements of O-group plaice Pleuronectes platessa as shown by latex tagging. J. Fish Biol., 5, 323–343.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Shenker J.M. & J.M. Dean, 1979. The utilization of an intertidal salt marsh by larval and juvenile fishes: abundance, diversity and temporal variation. Estuaries, 2, 154–163.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Summers, R.W., 1980. The diet and feeding behaviour of the flounder Platichthys flesus (L.) in the Ythan estuary, Aberdeenshire, Scotland. Estuar. cstl. mar. Sci., 11, 217–232.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Taborsky, M. & D. Limberger, 1980. The activity rhythm of Blennius sanguinolentus Pallas, an adaptation to its food source. Mar. Ecol., P.S.Z.N., 1, 143–153.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Taylor, M.H., L. DiMichele & G.J. Leach, 1977. Egg stranding in the life cycle of the mummichog Fundulus heteroclitus. Copeia 1977, 397–399.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Thomson, D.A. & C.E. Lehner, 1976. Resilience of a rocky intertidal fish community in a physically unstable environment. J. exp. mar. Biol. Ecol., 22, 1–29.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Thomson, D.A. & K.A. Muench, 1976. Influence of tides and waves on the spawning of the Gulf of California grunion Leuresthes sardina (Jordan & Evermann). Bull. Sth Calif. Acad. Sci., 75, 198–203.Google Scholar
  61. Tyler, A.V., 1971. Surges of winter flounder, Pseudopleuronectes americanus, into the intertidal zone. J. Fish. Res. Bd Can., 28, 1727–1732.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. van der Veer, H.W. & M.J.N. Bergman, 1986. Development of tidally related behaviour of a newly settled O-group plaice (Pleuronectes platessa) population in the western Wadden Sea. Mar. Ecol. Progr. Ser., 31, 121–129.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Walker, B.W., 1952. A guide to the grunion. Calif. Fish Game, 38, 409–420.Google Scholar
  64. Williams, G.C., 1957. Homing behaviour of California rocky shore fishes. Univ. Calif. Publ. Zool., 59, 249–284.Google Scholar
  65. Wirjoatmodo, S. & T.J. Pitcher, 1984. Flounders follow the tide to feed: evidence from ultrasonic tracking in an estuary. Estuar. cstl. Shelf Sci., 19, 231–242.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Yoshiyama, R.M., 1981. Distribution and abundance patterns of rocky intertidal fishes in central California. Env. Biol. Fish., 6, 315–332.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Zander, C.D., 1983. Terrestrial sojourns of two Mediterranean blennioid fish (Pisces, Blennioidea, Blenniidae). Senckenberg. Marit., 15, 19–26.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1988

Authors and Affiliations

  • Robin N. Gibson
    • 1
  1. 1.Dunstaffnage MarineResearch LaboratoryArgyllScotland, UK

Personalised recommendations