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Habitat partitioning by five congeneric and abundant Choerodon species (Labridae) in a large subtropical marine embayment

Fairclough, D.V., Clarke, K.R., Valesini, F.J. and Potter, I.C. (2008) Habitat partitioning by five congeneric and abundant Choerodon species (Labridae) in a large subtropical marine embayment. Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science, 77 (3). pp. 446-456.

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The habitats occupied by the juveniles and adults of five morphologically similar, diurnally active and abundant Choerodon species in the large subtropical environment of Shark Bay, a “World Heritage Property” on the west coast of Australia, have been determined. The densities of the two life cycle stages of each Choerodon species in those habitats were used in various analyses to test the hypotheses that: (1) habitats are partitioned among these species and between their juveniles and adults; (2) such habitat partitioning is greatest in the case of the two Western Australian endemic species, i.e. Choerodon rubescens and Choerodon cauteroma; and (3) the extent of habitat partitioning between both of these two species and the only species that is widely distributed in the Indo-West Pacific, i.e. Choerodon schoenleinii, will be less pronounced. Initially, catches of each of the five congeneric species, obtained during other studies in Shark Bay by angling, spearfishing and otter trawling, were collated to elucidate the broad distribution of these species in that embayment. Underwater visual census was then used to determine the densities of the juveniles and adults of each Choerodon species at sites representing the four habitat types in which one or more of these species had been caught, i.e. reefs in marine waters at the western boundary of the bay and seagrass, reefs and rocky shorelines in the two inner gulfs. The compositions of the Choerodon species over marine (entrance channel) reefs and in seagrass were significantly different and each differed significantly from those in both inner gulf reefs and rocky shorelines, which were, however, not significantly different. Choerodon rubescens was restricted to exposed marine reefs, and thus occupied a different habitat and location of the bay than C. cauteroma, the other endemic species, which was almost exclusively confined to habitats found in the inner gulfs. Choerodon cauteroma differed from other Choerodon species in being relatively abundant in each inner gulf habitat and undergoing an ontogenetic change in habitat. Thus, while its juveniles lived predominantly in seagrass, its adults occupied mostly reefs and rocky shorelines. Choerodon cephalotes occurred almost exclusively in seagrass, while C. cyanodus was relatively most abundant along rocky shorelines. Choerodon schoenleinii, the only one of the five Choerodon species to be widely distributed outside Australia, occupied reefs and, to a lesser extent, rocky shorelines in the inner gulfs. The above differences in habitat among Choerodon species would reduce the potential for competition for spatial resources among these abundant and similar species and between the juveniles and adults of one of the species.

Item Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation(s): Centre for Fish and Fisheries Research
School of Biological Sciences and Biotechnology
Publisher: Academic Press
Copyright: © Elsevier Ltd
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