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Fourteen species of damselfishes, studied at Alligator Reef, Florida Keys, were found to be distributed from the shoreline to over 45 m in depth. Some species could be characterized as deep dwelling (e.g., Chromis enchrysurus), others as shallow dwelling (e.g., Eupomacentrus
fuscus), and others as ubiquitous (e.g., E. variabilis). Within the depth limits of each species, distribution was related to features of the environment on which the species depended for feeding, reproduction, or protection from predation. Thus, larger species, such as E. fuscus,
E. planifrons, and Microspathodon chrysurus, were found in areas of consolidated cover. Smaller species, such as E. partitus and E. leucostictus, were often found in areas of loose cover. Many were capable of chromatic changes to suit better the contrast of their
environment. Some species ate benthic algae and animals, others fed on plankton. Plankton feeders were most abundant on areas of the reef which had constant current washing over them. Those living most inshore (e.g., Abudefduf saxatilis and E. partitus) supplemented their diets
with benthic algae. Benthic browsers were found in greatest abundance in shallow water. The swimming and feeding habits of each species were reflected in osteological modifications (e.g., long, expanded ascending premaxillary process in plankton feeders; expanded pectoral girdle in species
using pectoral sculling as a mode of swimming; small teeth in plankton feeders; large teeth in benthic browsers). Damselfishes were preyed upon by many reef-dwelling predators. They are thus important importers and distributers of energy in the coral reef community.
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