Size-related mortality due to gnathiid isopod micropredation correlates with settlement size in coral reef fishes

Grutter, A. S., Blomberg, S. P., Fargher, B., Kuris, A. M., McCormick, M. I. and Warner, R. R. (2017) Size-related mortality due to gnathiid isopod micropredation correlates with settlement size in coral reef fishes. Coral Reefs, 36 2: 1-11. doi:10.1007/s00338-016-1537-6

Author Grutter, A. S.
Blomberg, S. P.
Fargher, B.
Kuris, A. M.
McCormick, M. I.
Warner, R. R.
Title Size-related mortality due to gnathiid isopod micropredation correlates with settlement size in coral reef fishes
Journal name Coral Reefs   Check publisher's open access policy
ISSN 0722-4028
Publication date 2017-01-05
Year available 2017
Sub-type Article (original research)
DOI 10.1007/s00338-016-1537-6
Open Access Status Not yet assessed
Volume 36
Issue 2
Start page 1
End page 11
Total pages 11
Place of publication Heidelberg, Germany
Publisher Springer
Language eng
Subject 1104 Aquatic Science
Abstract The transition between the planktonic and the benthic habitat is a critical period for the larvae of many demersal marine organisms. Understanding the potential constraints on the timing of this habitat transition, called settlement, is important to understanding their biology. Size-specific mortality can set the limits on lifestyle and help explain ontogenetic habitat shifts. We examined whether size-based mortality risks after settlement may include micropredation by ectoparasites by testing whether survival of settlement-stage fish varies with fish size when exposed to a reef-associated micropredator. Fish (14 species) were exposed to one blood-sucking gnathiid isopod overnight, with appropriate controls; gnathiid feeding success and survival, and fish mortality were recorded relative to fish size. After adjusting for fish relatedness, we found the relationship between fish mortality and size differed with gnathiid exposure: for gnathiid-exposed fish, the mean mortality of the smallest fish was much higher (57%) than unexposed controls (10%), and decreased to ~0% for fish >12 mm standard length (SL); mortality was almost nil in controls. Thus, a predicted optimal size to switch habitat and reduce mortality risk from micropredation should be >12 mm SL. We then asked what species might be at greater risk and if the steep increase in survival at ~12 mm SL might coincide with settlement at larger sizes among fishes. Across 102 other species (32 families), 61% settled at ≥12 mm SL. After adjusting for relatedness, mean fish settlement size was 15.0 mm and this was not significantly different from 12 mm. Thus, settlement size clusters around the minimum fish size threshold our gnathiid experiment predicted would be large enough to survive a gnathiid encounter. These results suggest micropredators may contribute to size-selective mortality during settlement processes and are consistent with the hypothesis that the pelagic phase provides fish an escape from certain micropredators.
Keyword Ectoparasites
Fish settlement processes
Size-selective mortality
Q-Index Code C1
Q-Index Status Provisional Code
Institutional Status UQ

Document type: Journal Article
Sub-type: Article (original research)
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