The effect of social status and species on habitat preference of grunts, Haemulidae, on the fringing coral reef surrounding Bonaire

Many fish prefer to live in certain habitats based on protection, shade cover, rugosity, and foraging return. Haemulidae, also known as grunts, are a family of fishes that are prevalent on Bonaire and can be found throughout tropical coral reef ecosystems. This study utilized in situ observations to investigate the preferred habitats of solitary grunts compared to colonial grunts based on the amount of the of protection and shade cover that the habitat provided. Three types of grunts were focused on in this study: blue striped grunts (Haemulon sciurusnch), French grunts (Haemulon flavolineatu), and smallmouth grunts (Haemulon chrysargyreum). The results of this study demonstrated that solitary smallmouth grunts utilized habitats that provided the most protection. Further, solitary smallmouth grunts were found in habitats shaded by coral more than the other grunt species. French grunts were found in overall shade cover more than both smallmouth grunts and blue striped grunts. This study showed that blue striped grunts rely mainly on their size for protection, smallmouth grunts on schooling, and French grunts on habitat. A general knowledge of grunts habitat preferences is beneficial because many reefs worldwide are currently degrading. If the reefs continue to degrade, grunts could be in danger because of their specific habitat preferences, based on both their species and social status. Preserving the complexity of coral reef habitats is crucial for some grunts, such as French and smallmouth grunts, but it is not crucial for other grunts, such as blue striped grunts.

This student research was retrieved from Physis: Journal of Marine Science XVII (Spring 2015)19: 34-42 from CIEE Bonaire.

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