Cross Shelf Patterns in Habitat Selectivity of Hawkfish (Family: Cirrhitidae) in the Red Sea; with a Special Case of Varying Color Morphs in Paracirrhites forsteri.
AdvisorsBerumen, Michael L.
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AbstractNot much is known about hawkfish worldwide including those that occur in the understudied Red Sea reef system. Hawkfishes are small reef predators that perch in ambush-ready positions and shelter within or on various substrates including live and dead coral. The aim of this study was to look at the distribution and abundance patterns of Red Sea hawkfishes across an inshore and offshore gradient and to investigate the use of benthic habitats. This study was conducted on three inshore, four midshore, and two offshore reefs with surveys at 8 meters and along the reef crest. In total, three species were documented: Paracirrhites forsteri, Cirrhitichthys oxycephalus, and Cirrhitus spilotoceps. We found clear distinctions between depth zones and between continental shelf positions. Cirrhitichthys oxycephalus only occurs at the reef slope and Cirrhitus spilotoceps is only found on reef crests. Paracirrhites forsteri was the most abundant species across all reefs and was found in four varying color morphs. Morph 1 showed the most evidence of being a generalist as it utilized the greatest number of substrates. All three species were more abundant on midshore and offshore reefs which have healthier, intact coral communities. Coral cover is a good indicator of hawkfish abundance even when the species in question does not utilize live coral directly.