Color Variation and Associated Behavior in the Epinepheline Groupers, Mycteroperca Microlepis (Goode and Bean) and M. Phenax Jordan and Swain
Color variants and behavior of scamp, Mycteroperca phenax, and gag, M. microlepis, are described from 64 submersible dives made on reef structures at depths between 20 and 100 m off the east coast of Florida from February 1977 to September 1982. These dives yielded 146 h of observations augmented with video and 35 mm photography. Both species display a variety of color phases associated with social behavior. They are expressed in each case by an aggressive, dominant territorial individual which displays to a group of smaller subordinates. Social hierarchy is evident in both species, with the alpha individual being a male in the gag and of undetermined sex in the scamp. Although actual spawning was not documented, hierarchical behavior and displays are interpreted as courtship associated with spawning activity. Courtship is further implied based on the similarity of these behaviors to those recorded for a variety of other fishes including serranids. Scamp appear to prefer habitats characterized by maximum structural complexity, such as living Oculina coral reefs, at depths between 70 and 100 m. The gag is a larger species and less dependent on live coral habitats. The significance of the social behavior in illuminating possible functions of protogyny and polygyny in M. phenax and M. microlepis is discussed. Documentation of complex social hierarchies in scamp and gag may have an impact on fishery management in that successful reproduction may prove dependent upon a wide variety of behavioral factors related to the role of individual fish in spawning hierarchies.
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Document Type: Research Article
Publication date: 01 July 1992
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