Lethal and sublethal impacts of a micropredator on post-settlement Caribbean reef fishes

Joseph C. Sellers, Daniel M. Holstein, Tarryn L. Botha, Paul C. Sikkel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)


The transition from a planktonic larval stage to a benthic or demersal juvenile stage, “recruitment”, is a crucial event in the life history of coral reef fishes, and has a strong influence on population size. Predation by piscivorous fishes is thought to be the main determinant of recruitment success, and has received the most attention. However, recent studies suggest that recently settled reef fishes are also an important target of micropredation from blood-feeding ectoparasites which may have significant lethal and sublethal effects. In this study, we quantified the relationship between levels of infestation by gnathiid isopods and mortality rates among juveniles of three species of reef fishes as a function of body mass both within and among species. We found that a single gnathiid isopod larva could kill fish of all three species shortly after settlement, up to 0.116 g [18 mm fork length (FL)] in French grunt (Haemulon flavolineatum), 0.027 g (15 mm FL) in masked goby (Coryphopterus personatus) and 0.01 g (9 mm FL) in beaugregory damselfish (Stegastes leucostictus). For juvenile S. leucostictus, we also compared the ability of fish to defend a territory when infested with a sublethal number of gnathiids versus uninfected individuals. Uninfected fish were significantly more likely to win-pairwise contests versus infected fish. These findings suggest that gnathiids can significantly impact juvenile coral reef fish survival, and affect population dynamics well past the settlement stage.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)293-305
Number of pages13
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 13 Feb 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • Competition
  • Gnathiid isopod
  • Mortality
  • Parasite
  • Recruitment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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