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The effects of background adaptation and food availability on habitat preference of Corythoichthys flavofasciatus

  • Author(s): Iyer, Neetha
  • Advisor(s): Mishler, Brent
  • Roderick, George
  • Resh, Vincent
  • Stillman, Jonathon
  • et al.
Abstract

Habitat preferences are intrinsically linked to factors that facilitate the survival of a species. The relationship between these factors determines how well a species does in its environment. Often habitat choice is related to the availability of food, presence of predators, and proximity to other viable habitats, amongst other variables. How these variables interact depends on fluctuations in the trophic web of which they are a part.Corythoichthys flavofasciatusis a species of pipefish that occurs in the fringing and back reefs of Mo’orea, French Polynesia. It feeds on zooplankton and occurs primarily on dead coral heads that are covered in algal turf. This study aimed to understand the relationship between zooplankton abundance, habitat quality, and substrate types on the habitat preferences of this pipefish. A field survey of the abundance of zooplankton in different habitats was used to determine if more food was available in habitats that were dominated by dead coral. Results suggest that more zooplankton are found above algal turf than live coral. A survey looking at pipefish abundance and amount of coral available in the habitat suggests that pipefish abundance correlates weakly to the amount of algal turf in the environment. An experiment quantifying color change in light and dark morphs of pipefish was conducted to determine if pipefish were capable of background adaptation, depending on substrate color. The results suggest that these observations were not statistically significant but warrant further research, using larger sample sizes. The findings of this study provide insight into the ecological role of pipefish in coral reef habitats.

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