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Habitat associations of hawkfish: depth, distribution, and density at two sites in Kenya

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Hawkfish (Actinopterygii: Perciformes: Cirrhitidae) are a family of carnivorous, coral-dwelling fishes. Some of these have been identified as obligate coral-dwelling, facultative coral-dwelling, substratum-dwelling, or water column-dwelling, depending on the species and habitat. Research on hawkfish density and habitat associations has been conducted in the Atlantic, Pacific, and the eastern and central Indian oceans. However, little is known about the density or habitat associations on the coast of East Africa. This study investigates distribution and density patterns of hawkfish species off Kenya, as well as relationships with available coral habitats, at both shallow (<5 m) and deeper (5–15 m) coral reef sites. In addition, habitat associations of the two most abundant hawkfish species of the same genus [Paracirrhites arcatus (Cuvier, 1829) and Paracirrhites forsteri (Schneider, 1801)] are identified. Findings showed species-specific macrohabitat associations, whereby higher densities of P. arcatus were found on deep reefs, and higher densities of P. forsteri were found on shallow reefs. In addition, P. arcatus showed a positive association with the hard-branching coral Pocillopora. However, as there was less Pocillopora on the deep reefs, P. arcatus does not prefer the deep reefs simply because there is more Pocillopora present, lending support that these species are facultative coral dwellers. The increased density of hawkfish on deeper reefs could be an indication of mesopredator release, as the study's deep reef locations were within national reserves, which are open to some types of artisanal fishing, reducing the number of apex predators.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: School of Animal, Rural and Environmental Sciences, Brackenhurst Campus, Nottingham Trent University, Southwell, Nottinghamshire, NG25 0QF, UK, A Rocha Kenya, PO Box 383, Watamu, 80202, Kenya, Marine and Coastal Conservation Programme, A Rocha International, 89 Worship Street, London EC2A 2BF, UK;, Email: [email protected] 2: School of Animal, Rural and Environmental Sciences, Brackenhurst Campus, Nottingham Trent University, Southwell, Nottinghamshire, NG25 0QF, UK 3: A Rocha Kenya, PO Box 383, Watamu, 80202, Kenya, Marine and Coastal Conservation Programme, A Rocha International, 89 Worship Street, London EC2A 2BF, UK

Publication date: April 1, 2019

This article was made available online on January 18, 2019 as a Fast Track article with title: "Habitat associations of hawkfish: depth, distribution, and density at two sites in Kenya".

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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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