Activity rhythms and cyclical changes of microhabitat preferences in the intertidal pipefish Nerophis lumbriciformis (Pisces: Syngnathidae)

  • Monteiro N
  • Vieira M
  • Almada V
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Abstract. As an inhabitant of the intertidal zone, Nerophis lumbriciformis predictably should show a clear rhythmic activity, with its maximum closely correlated with the high tide period, as observed in several other rocky intertidal fish species. We investigated the rhythmic activity patterns of N. lumbriciformis and analysed to what extent specific substratum preferences may be linked to water level and, ultimately, to the particular activity rhythm patterns of the fish. To determine N. lumbriciformis substratum preferences, two different experiments were conducted. The first evaluated substratum preferences from among a group of the four most common substrates found in the sample area. The second experiment evaluated the fish's maintenance of that substratum preference, after alteration of the water level in a simulated ebb tide. From the available substrata, N. lumbriciformis displayed a clear preference for algae until the water level began to decrease. Then, the preference radically shifted from algae to boulders. N. lumbriciformis showed a clear rhythmic activity, affected by both tidal and circadian periodicity, producing asymmetrical activity peaks. Unlike the rhythms of other rocky intertidal fish species, the maximum activity peaks were not centred at the expected high tide period. The adaptive explanation for the apparently peculiar activity peaks appears to be related to the particular substratum preferences of N. lumbriciformis. The detected circatidal period seems, consequently, closely related to small migrations between substrata, whilst the observed increase in diurnal activity, independent of the tidal cycle, may be related to predatory activity, since N. lumbriciformis is a visual feeder

Author-supplied keywords

  • Nerophis lumbriciformis
  • Rhythmic activity
  • Substratum preference
  • Syngnathidae

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  • Nuno MonteiroCIBIO, Centro de Investigação em Biodiversidade e Recursos Genéticos (Universidade do Porto)

  • M. N. Vieira

  • V. C. Almada

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