Comparison of cryptobenthic reef fish communities among microhabitats in the Red Sea

Emily M. Troyer*, Darren J. Coker, Michael L. Berumen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Knowledge of community structure within an ecosystem is essential when trying to understand the function and importance of the system and when making related management decisions. Within the larger ecosystem, microhabitats play an important role by providing inhabitants with a subset of available resources. On coral reefs, cryptobenthic fishes encompass many groups and make up an important proportion of the biodiversity. However, these fishes are relatively small, exhibit extreme visual or behavioral camouflage, and, therefore, are often overlooked. We examined the differences in fish community structure between three common reef microhabitats (live hard coral, dead coral rubble, and sand) using ichthyocide stations in the central Red Sea. Using a combination of morphological and genetic (cytochrome oxidase I (COI) barcoding) techniques, we identified 326 individuals representing 73 species spread across 17 families, from fifteen 1 m2 quadrats. Fish assemblages in the three microhabitats were significantly different from each other. Rubble microhabitats yielded the highest levels of fish abundance, richness, and diversity, followed by hard coral, and then sand. The results show that benthic composition, even at a small scale, influences cryptobenthic communities. This study also provides new COI sequence data to public databases, in order to further the research of cryptobenthic fishes in the Red Sea region.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere5014
Issue number6
StatePublished - 2018

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors would like to thank Michael Campbell for his mapmaking expertise, as well as Calder Atta, Royale Hardenstine, Alison Monroe, Tullia Terraneo, Matthew Tietbohl, and Sara Wilson for their assistance in the field. We are also grateful to Calder Atta, Simon Brandl, and Luke Tornabene for their help in identifying several fish species. Fieldwork was supported by the KAUST Coastal and Marine Resources Core Laboratory. Feedback from Christopher Goatley and Luke Tornabene greatly improved the manuscript.

Funding Information:
This project was funded by the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (baseline research funds to Michael L. Berumen). The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 Troyer et al.


  • Biodiversity
  • Cryptobenthic fish
  • DNA barcoding
  • Ecology
  • Gobiidae
  • Microhabitat
  • Red Sea

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)


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