Relevance of cryptic fishes in biodiversity assessments: A case study at Buck Island Reef National Monument, St. Croix

  • Smith-Vaniz W
  • Jelks H
  • Rocha L
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Because cryptic fishes are difficult to accurately survey, they are undersampled components of coral reef habitats, and their ecological roles have been generally ignored. Fifty-eight enclosed stations were sampled in shoreline, nearshore reef, lagoon, backreef, forereef, and bank/shelf habitats with an ichthyocide (rotenone) at Buck Island Reef National Monument, St. Croix, U.S. virgin Islands. Our samples included 55 families and 228 species, 60 previously unreported from St. Croix. Fish assemblages varied across habitat zones with the shoreline assemblage the most distinct. Only 8% of the species were present in all habitats. Multi-dimensional scaling plots of habitat characteristics and Bray-Curtis similarities of fish assemblages revealed similar patterns. dominant and rare taxa are enumerated for each habitat sampled. Rotenone and visual census data are compared. While visual surveys accumulated more species per unit of effort, rotenone samples accumulated more species by area. Only 36% of the 228 species sampled with rotenone were visually detected, while 70% of the 115 species visually detected were also collected with rotenone. The use of rotenone is controversial but important for obtaining reasonably complete inventories of reef fishes. Misconceptions about rotenone and the advantages and limitations of alternative biodiversity assessment methods are discussed.

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  • William F. Smith-Vaniz

  • Howard L. Jelks

  • Luiz A. Rocha

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