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Importance of Benthic Prey for Fishes in Coral Reef-Associated Sediments

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Title:Importance of Benthic Prey for Fishes in Coral Reef-Associated Sediments
Authors:DeFelice, Ralph C.
Parrish, James D.
Date Issued:Oct 2003
Publisher:University of Hawai'i Press
Citation:DeFelice RC, Parrish JD. 2003. Importance of benthic prey for fishes in coral reef-associated sediments. Pac Sci 57(4): 359-384.
Abstract:The importance of open, sandy substrate adjacent to coral reefs as
habitat and a food source for fishes has been little studied in most shallow
tropical waters in the Pacific, including Hawai'i. In this study, in Hanalei Bay,
Hawai'i, we identified and quantified the major invertebrate fauna (larger than
0.5 mm) in the well-characterized sands adjoining the shallow fringing reefs.
Concurrently, we identified the fish species that seemed to make substantial use
of these sand habitats, estimated their density there, sampled their gut contents
to examine trophic links with the sand habitat, and made other observations and
collections to determine the times, locations, and types of activity there. A variety
of (mostly small) polychaetes were dominant in the sediments at most sampling
stations, along with many small crustaceans (e.g., amphipods, isopods,
ostracods, and small shrimps) and fair numbers of mollusks (especially bivalves)
and small echinoids. Fish guts examined contained ~77% of the total number of
benthic taxa collected, including nearly all those just listed. However, fish consumption
was selective, and the larger shrimps, crabs, and small cryptic fishes
were dominant in the diets of most of the numerous predator taxa. Diets of
benthic-feeding fishes showed relatively low specific overlap. The fish fauna in
this area included substrate-indifferent pelagics, species with various degrees of
reef relatedness, reef-restricted species, and (at the other extreme) permanent
cryptic sand dwellers. Data on occurrence and movements of fishes indicated
that a band of sandy substrate several tens of meters wide next to the reef was an
active area for fishes, and activity was considerably different at different times of
day and for fish of different ages. These results imply an important trophic role
for the benthos in these near-reef habitats in support of reef-associated fishes.
Appears in Collections: Pacific Science Volume 57, Number 4, 2003

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