Habitat Use of Two Coral-Associated Cryptobenthic Gobiid Fishes (Family: Gobiidae) in the Southern Caribbean

Abstract: Cryptobenthic fishes make up more than half of coral reef fish fauna and contribute greatly to coral reef trophodynamics and diversity. Because of their small size, they are easily overlooked and understudied. Some of them use corals as their habitat, but this association is not well understood. In the Caribbean, two common cryptobenthic gobies, Elacatinus evelynae and Coryphopterus lipernes, are usually observed residing on corals. In order to compare their habitat use, we investigated their distributions on a range of scleractinian host-coral species at three different depths (5, 10, and 15 m) at Curaçao, southern Caribbean. The numbers of both species were relatively low at 5 m. Furthermore, we investigated the relationship between fish size and depth and found that adult E. evelynae individuals were most common at 5 m depth and juveniles at 15 m depth. Novel host corals were found for both fish species. Taking host size into account, the gobies were most abundant on large coral colonies of two host species: E. evelynae on both Colpophyllia natans and Montastraea cavernosa, and C. lipernes only on C. natans. In summary, depth, host species, and hostcolony size were found to be environmental factors that may determine the occurrence of both fish species.

Keywords: Coryphopterus lipernes; Elacatinus evelynae; depth range; fish size; host coral; coral-colony size

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