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Free Content Colony Formation and Some Possible Benefits and Costs of Gregarious Living in the Territorial Sand Tilefish, Mala Canthus Plumieri

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Mapping studies revealed that the sand tilefish, Malacanthus plumieri, occurs in discrete, sedentary groups at Glover's Reef Atoll, Belize. Group locations were fixed, as were the burrowing positions of individuals within groups (coloniality). The distribution of tilefish was statistically clumped within the entire study area, with colonies present on fewer than one-half (47%) of the available patches of sand-rubble substrate. Nearest neighbor analyses together with determination of the percentage of available substrate occupied per patch revealed that fish were also aggregated within most habitat patches. Both adult and juvenile tilefish were most dense in a current swept channel that connects the inner lagoon of Glover's Atoll with the Caribbean Sea. Tilefish density was lower on patches of sand-rubble substrate adjacent to patch reefs within the lagoon (reef slopes). Tilefish abundance in relation to current flow suggests that larger numbers of planktonic tilefish larvae may be transported to the channel than to reef slope patches. Unoccupied habitat was abundant near to most reef slope colonies. It seems unlikely, therefore, that colonies form because suitable habitat is limited, or because localized currents concentrate larvae only in some areas. The notion that recruits are attracted to adults is supported by their cohabitation of most sites, and a conspicuous absence of colonies composed exclusively of juveniles. Apparently contagious reactions to simulated predator threat suggests the potential for social transmission of danger stimuli. A competition cost of coloniality is indicated by the positive relationship between the frequency of intrasexual aggression and fish density.

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: January 1, 1992

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  • The Bulletin of Marine Science is dedicated to the dissemination of high quality research from the world's oceans. All aspects of marine science are treated by the Bulletin of Marine Science, including papers in marine biology, biological oceanography, fisheries, marine affairs, applied marine physics, marine geology and geophysics, marine and atmospheric chemistry, and meteorology and physical oceanography.
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