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Microhabitats and ecomorphology of coral- and coral rock-associated gobiid fish (Teleostei: Gobiidae) in the northern Red Sea

Authors


Jürgen Herler, Department of Theoretical Biology and Morphology, Faculty of Life Sciences, University of Vienna, Althanstraße 14, A-1090 Vienna, Austria.
E-mail: juergen.herler@univie.ac.at

Abstract

Twenty-one coral- and coral rock-associated gobiid fish species were examined in the Gulf of Aqaba, northern Red Sea in autumn 2003 and spring 2004. They represent the seven genera Bryaninops, Eviota, Gobiodon, Paragobiodon, Pleurosicya, Priolepis and Trimma. All species showed clear spatial niche segregation. Branching corals of the genus Acropora were obligatorily inhabited by Gobiodon spp., while Paragobiodon echinocephalus was restricted to Stylophora pistillata. Three Bryaninops species showed species-specific associations with Acropora spp., Millepora dichotoma and Cirripathes sp. Most of the five Eviota species had weak associations with live corals but frequented coral rock. Among the genus Pleurosicya, two species were encountered. Pleurosicya micheli frequented massive scleractinian corals, while P. prognatha occupied various species of Acropora. Priolepis semidoliata was only occasionally observed on coral rock. Weak associations with scleractinian corals were documented in Trimma avidori and T. mendelssohni, both of which inhabit coral rock. Principal component and cluster analyses showed several morphological features to be important ecomorphological traits. Gobiid species inhabiting encrusting or massive corals have a more depressed body than species in branching corals. Eye size was well correlated with preferred water depth, especially in the coral-associated species. A typical gobiid feature – the pelvic disc – was found in very different character states, and corresponded to preferred microhabitats. A well-developed suctorial pelvic disc was typical for obligate coral-dwellers.

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