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Open Access Spatial Ecology and Habitat Partitioning of Two Sympatric Ophichthid Eel Species in the Gulf of Mexico

This article is Open Access under the terms of the Creative Commons CC-BY-NC-ND licence.
Ophichthid eel species are abundant and diverse in tropical and semitropical seas but there are few studies of snake eel life histories and factors influencing spatial distributions. Here we analyze 12 demersal longline sampling expeditions circumnavigating continental shelves in the Gulf of Mexico (GoM) during 2011–2017. Two ophichthid eels were dominant components of fish assemblages: king snake eel (KSE), Ophichthus rex, and palespotted eel (PSE), Ophichthus puncticeps. Relative abundance (CPUE) of KSE was highest in the north central GoM, lower in the northwest and southeast and on the West Florida Shelf, and absent from northwest Cuba and the Yucatán Platform. Contrariwise, PSE abundance was highest on the Yucatán Platform, lower in the north central GoM and on the West Florida Shelf, and absent from the northwest and southwest GoM and Cuba. GAM-based species distribution models were fit to presence-absence data from sampled stations using a variety of environmental covariates including water depth, longitude, and sediment type (sand vs mud/silt). Although the two species were caught in similar depths and bottom temperatures, they were only caught together at 1% of the stations. This study extends the record length of KSE to 226 cm (total length). Despite being abundant in areas overlapping the footprint of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010, concentrations of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and their metabolites were relatively low in KSE, perhaps related to copious slime production which, in other studies, has been determined to be a vector for PAH excretion in fishes.

Spanish
Las especies de anguilas ofictidas son abundantes y diversas en los mares tropicales y semitropicales; sin embargo existen pocos estudios sobre las historias de vida de las anguilas serpiente y los factores que influyen en sus distribuciones espaciales. En este estudio analizamos 12 expediciones de muestreo con palangre demersal desarrolladas en la plataforma continental de todo el Golfo de México (GoM) durante 2011–2017. Dos anguilas Ophichthid fueron componentes dominantes en los conjuntos de peces: lairón (KSE), Ophichthus rex, y tieso de puntos pálidos (PSE), Ophichthus puncticeps. La abundancia relativa (CPUE) de KSE fue más alta en el centro norte del GoM, menor en el noroeste y suroeste y en la plataforma del oeste de Florida, y nula en el noroeste de Cuba y la plataforma de Yucatán. Por el contrario, la abundancia de PSE fue mayor en la plataforma de Yucatán, menor en el centro norte del GoM y en la plataforma occidental de Florida, y nula en el noroeste y suroeste del GoM y en Cuba. Los modelos de distribución de especies basados en GAM se ajustaron a los datos de presencia-ausencia de las estaciones muestreadas utilizando una variedad de covariables ambientales que incluyen la profundidad del agua, la longitud, y el tipo de sedimento (arena frente a lodo/limo). Aunque las dos especies se registraron en profundidades y temperaturas de fondo similares, solo fueron capturadas juntas en 1% de las estaciones. Este estudio extiende la longitud máxima registrada de KSE a 226 cm (longitud total). A pesar de ser abundante en áreas que contienen la huella del derrame de petróleo de Deepwater Horizon en 2010, las concentraciones de hidrocarburos aromáticos policíclicos (HAP) y sus metabolitos fueron relativamente bajas en KSE, tal vez relacionado con la producción copiosa de mucosidad que, en otros estudios, se ha determinado como un vector para la excreción de PAH en los peces.

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: College of Marine Science, University of South Florida, 140 7 thAvenue South, St. Petersburg, Florida 33706;, Email: [email protected] 2: Instituto de Ciencias del Mar y Limnología, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Apartado Postal 70-305, Mexico City, 04510, Mexico

Publication date: April 1, 2023

This article was made available online on February 10, 2023 as a Fast Track article with title: "Spatial ecology and habitat partitioning of two sympatric Ophichthid eel species in the Gulf of Mexico".

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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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