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Keywords:

  • choice;
  • cobble;
  • fish habitat;
  • interstices;
  • juvenile fish;
  • structure

The interaction between body size, habitat complexity and interstice width on habitat preference of age-0 and -1 year Pseudopleuronectes americanus was examined using continuous remote video observation. The habitat choices of juvenile P. americanus were recorded over a 6 h period in tanks with four treatments: bare sand, sand with low complexity cobble, sand with intermediate complexity cobble and sand with high complexity cobble. Both age-0 and -1 year fish preferred cobble to bare sand. Within cobble treatments, age-0 year fish preferred intermediate complexity cobble, with a 1·59 ratio of interstitial space to body width. The largest age-1 year fish (123–130 mm standard length, LS) preferred low complexity cobble. While a significant preference was not detected, medium age-1 year fish (83–88 mm LS) tended to select low complexity cobble, whereas small age-1 year fish (73–82 mm LS) tended to select low and intermediate cobble, with an interstitial space to body width ratio of 1·05. For medium and large age-1 year fish, there was an increased selection of low complexity cobble, corresponding to larger interstitial space to body size ratios. This study indicates that juvenile P. americanus prefer complex habitat to unstructured habitat and that this preference is mediated by a relationship between fish body size and the size of structure interstices. These results contribute to the growing body of knowledge of complex habitat selection and drivers of habitat choice in flatfishes.