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Influence of latitude, water depth, day v. night and wet v. dry periods on the species composition of reef fish communities in tropical Western Australia

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Trap sampling over reefs in deep (mean = 20 m) and shallow (mean = 10 m) waters along c. 1500 km of coastline in tropical north-western Australia during both day and night and in wet and dry periods yielded 23 377 fishes, representing 32 families, 58 genera and 119 species. Individuals of the Serranidae, Lutjanidae, Lethrinidae and Carangidae contributed 88·9% to the total catch. The ichthyofaunal compositions of the Kimberley, Canning and Pilbara bioregions were relatively discrete. Species composition was influenced far more by location (latitude) than by water depth, period and time of day, and underwent a gradational change southwards. The latter change reflected differences in the trends exhibited by the relative abundances of certain species with increasing latitude and the confinement of other species largely to particular regions. The three most abundant species, i.e. Lethrinus sp. 3, Lutjanus carponotatus and Lethrinus laticaudis contributed 34·8, 20·8 and 11·6% to the total catch, respectively. The first species was rarely recorded in the two most northern locations and was abundant in the four most southern locations, whereas the last two species were relatively more abundant in northern than in southern locations. Lutjanus bitaeniatus and Lutjanus johnii were found exclusively at the two locations in the Kimberley region, whereas Abalistes stellatus, Pentapodus emeryii and Lethrinus nebulosus were not caught in this region but were found in both locations of the Canning and Pilbara regions. The species composition in deep and shallow waters at each location almost invariably differed significantly between day and night and between dry and wet periods, with species such as L. bitaeniatus, L. johnii, Lutjanus sebae and A. stellatus being more abundant over deep reefs, whereas L. carponotatus, L. laticaudis, Siganus fuscescens and Lethrinus lentjan were more numerous over shallow reefs. Species such as L. johnii and Lethrinus atkinsoni were relatively more important in night-time than daytime catches, whereas the reverse applied to Lethrinus lentjan, L. laticaudis and Choerodon cyanodus. Lethrinus sp. 3 and L. laticaudis were relatively more important in catches during the dry than wet period.

Keywords: coral reefs; diel and period effects; fish assemblages; latitude; water depth

Document Type: Regular Paper


Affiliations: 1: Western Australian Fisheries and Marine Research Laboratories, Department of Fisheries, Government of Western Australia, P. O. Box 20, North Beach, Western Australia 6920, Australia 2: Centre for Fish and Fisheries Research, School of Biological Sciences and Biotechnology, Murdoch University, Murdoch, Western Australia 6150, Australia

Publication date: 2006-10-01

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