Microhabitat characteristics of Stegastes planifrons and S. adustus territories

Abstract : Stegastes adustus and Stegastes planifrons are two species of damselfishes commonly found in the Caribbean. These territorial fishes have been widely studied due to their major ecological role on coral reef in controlling the growth of macroalgae that compete with corals for space and, inversely, on their deleterious role in destroying coral tissues to impulse the development of algae. However, few studies were conducted on the biotic and abiotic components of their territories. In the present study, territory size and surfaces of benthic components (macroalgae, algal turf, massive corals, branching corals, Milleporidae, sponges, sand and rubbles) were estimated for the two species at two contrasted sites. At Ilet Pigeon site (IP), the two damselfishes were found at different depth and exhibited different territory sizes. S. adustus defended a larger territory characterized by massive corals, sand and Milleporidae, while S. planifrons territories were smaller, deeper and characterized by branching corals, sponges and rubble. At Passe-à-Colas site (PC), the two fish species coexisted in the same depth range and defended territories of similar size. Their territories presented higher proportions of macroalgae, but smaller surfaces of Milleporidae than at IP. At PC, the main difference between the two species was a higher surface of massive corals inside S. planifrons territories than S. adustus territories. Differences in microhabitat characteristics between the two Stegastes seemed mostly site related. This resulted from the high plasticity of two species, allowing them to persist on Caribbean coral reefs after the decline of most branching acroporids, their former favorite habitats.
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Charlotte Dromard, Yolande Bouchon-Navaro, Sébastien Cordonnier, Mireille Harmelin-Vivien, Claude Bouchon. Microhabitat characteristics of Stegastes planifrons and S. adustus territories. Environmental Biology of Fishes, Springer, 2017, pp.1-8. ⟨10.1007/s10641-017-0709-8⟩. ⟨hal-01688460⟩

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