Comparison of Fishes and Macroinvertebrates on seagrass and bare-sand sites on Guatemala's Atlantic coast
We describe the diversity and abundance of fishes and macroinvertebrates inhabiting sandy, shallow water seagrass and adjacent bare-sand sites near Bahía La Graciosa, on the Atlantic coast of Guatemala, to assess the relative importance of turtle grass (Thalassia testudinum) meadows as nurseries. Twenty-six samples (13 on each strata) were collected with a cylindrical drop sampler (1.18 m2) during 14–17 December 1993. Microhabitat data, including mean depth, water temperature, turbidity, mid-water column velocity, distance to the shore, substrate percent sand content, salinity, dissolved oxygen concentration, and percent of the bottom covered by seagrass were recorded. Means for seagrass coverage, biomass, and leaf surface area index were 79.6%, 44.2 g dry wt m−2, and 1.1 m2 m−2, respectively, on seagrass sites. Total crustacean and fish abundances were significantly higher (P < 0.01) by a factor of seven and 20 times, respectively, on seagrasses than on bare-sand sites, but no significant differences (P > 0.05) were detected for gastropods. The species diversity and evenness of fishes and crustaceans were both also significantly higher (P < 0.01) in seagrass samples. Seagrass fishes included 19 species and were numerically dominated by juvenile Haemulon steindachnery. The only fish present in bare-sand sites was Dactiloscopus poeyi, which was second in overall abundance. Other abundant seagrass fishes were Nicholsina usta and Halichoeres pictus. The most abundant crustacean species was the hermit crab, Pagurus critinicornis, followed by the longtail grass shrimp, Periclimenes longicaudatus, and the marsh grass shrimp, Palemonetes vulgaris. The dominant gastropod species was Nassarius polygonatus, followed by Nerita virginica and Jaspidella jaspidea. The size of seagrass fishes ranged from 12 to 69 mm standard length, and the majority (83%) were early juveniles, supporting the hypothesis of seagrasses as an important nursery for fishes.
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Document Type: Research Article
Publication date: September 1, 1999
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