Population Fluctuation, Competition and Microhabitat Distribution of Two Species of Tube Blennies, Acanthemblemaria (Teleostei: Chaenopsidae)
Two species of hole-dwelling blenny, Acanthemblemaria spinosa and A. aspera, were studied on a coral reef in St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands, during two field periods 6 years apart (1980 and 1986) to determine degree of population stability, habitat saturation, and interspecific competition. A. spinosa increased from 1.18 to 1.78 fish · m−2 and A. aspera increased from 0 to 1.37 fish · m−2 for a combined 2.71-fold increase. Both species were abundant in the 5 to 9 m depth range in 1986 but absent from the 1 to 3 m depth range. Transplantation experiments in 1980 indicate that the shallower unoccupied areas are physically suitable for survival and provide adequate food for A. spinosa to persist in a reproductive state for 7 weeks. A. spinosa occupied the higher portions of dead corals in both periods whereas A. aspera occupied the lower portions in 1986, being virtually absent in 1980. Experiments with transplanted fish on artificial habitats indicate that both species prefer the higher portions but A. spinosa excludes A. aspera when they co-occur. Removal of blennies from their natural holes results in 86% of the A. spinosa holes being reoccupied within 2 days whereas the corresponding percentage for A. aspera is 35. It is tentatively concluded that 1980 was an unusual year due to the passage of two hurricanes near St. Croix in the fall of 1979; storms would disproportionately depress A. aspera because it shelters close to the bottom. It is argued that in the case of spatially-clustered organisms, strong intraspecific competition can occur in an unsaturated environment, but whether or not this also applies to interspecific competition is unclear.
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Document Type: Research Article
Publication date: 01 May 1989
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