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Open Access Feeding habitats of juvenile reef fishes in a tropical mangrove–seagrass continuum along a Malaysian shallow-water coastal lagoon

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We conducted stable isotope (δ13C and δ15N) and gut content analyses to understand habitat use of juvenile reef fishes (Lethrinus lentjan, Lutjanus russellii, and Epinephelus coioides), particularly the influence of spatial habitat structure along seagrass–mangrove continua. Sampling was conducted in Setiu Lagoon, located in the southern waters of the South China Sea (Malaysia). Gut content analysis indicated that the focal fishes preyed mainly on benthic invertebrates and other smaller fishes; these were used as potential prey items for isotopic tracers to track fish habitat use. Stable isotope analyses highlighted that the juvenile reef fishes were highly associated with seagrass beds as feeding grounds; however, site-specific analyses suggest differences in fish feeding habitats. The juvenile fishes, particularly large juveniles, preyed in both mangrove and seagrass areas from the central lagoon, whereas all juveniles showed preferential foraging within seagrass meadows in the nearby lagoon mouth. Furthermore, the mean stable isotope values of muscle tissue differed among fish size classes, indicating their ontogenetic habitat/diet shifts, especially for L. lentjan and E. coioides. This study provides important information to support current efforts in protecting and preserving mangroves and seagrasses as crucial nursery habitats for juvenile reef fishes from the anthropogenic activities influencing Setiu Lagoon.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Institute of Oceanography and Environment, Universiti Malaysia Terengganu, 21030 Kuala Nerus, Terengganu, Malaysia 2: Atmosphere and Ocean Research Institute, The University of Tokyo, 5-1-5, Kashiwanoha, Kashiwa-shi, Chiba 277-8564 Japan

Publication date: July 1, 2020

This article was made available online on September 11, 2019 as a Fast Track article with title: "Feeding habitats of juvenile reef fishes in a tropical mangrove-seagrass continuum along a Malaysian shallow-water coastal lagoon".

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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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