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Examining movement patterns of yellowtail snapper, Ocyurus chrysurus, in the Dry Tortugas, Florida

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Yellowtail snapper, Ocyurus chrysurus (Bloch, 1970), is an important fisheries species in the Florida Keys. In 2008–2009, yellowtail snapper were tagged with acoustic transmitters and tracked through an array of 86 stationary receivers in the Dry Tortugas’ network of marine reserves in Florida to determine site fidelity, home range, and temporal patterns of habitat use. Fifteen yellowtail snapper were tracked for 1–427 days [x ̅ = 188 (SE 39)]. A multistep method for data validation ensured that only the fish with high-quality detection data were selected for data analyses. Brownian bridge models were used to estimate home range rather than more traditional methods because they incorporate not only detection location but also time between detections, the path between successive detections, and location error. For a species typically described as transient, six of the tagged yellowtail snapper had high site fidelity [x ̅ = 58.4 % (SE 8.4)], and Brownian bridge models estimated relatively small minimum home ranges [x ̅ = 5.45 km2 (SE 1.79)]. Movements were highly variable, but analyses showed that fish displayed diel and seasonal trends and in general were more likely to be absent during summer months or during dusk and at night. Tagged yellowtail snapper showed a preference for reef edge habitat, swimming in and out of the marine reserve where the boundary intersected this type of habitat. The knowledge that yellowtail snapper is less transient than previously believed and understanding the habitat preference and temporal movements of this species can help with its future management.
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Affiliations: South Florida Regional Laboratory, Fish and Wildlife Research Institute, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, 2796 Overseas Highway, Suite 119, Marathon, Florida 33050

Appeared or available online: 08 August 2018

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