Identifying relationships between fishes and their environment is an integral part of understanding coral reef ecosystems. However, this information is lacking for many species, particularly in understudied and remote regions. With coral reefs continuing to face environmental pressures, insight into abundance and distribution patterns along with resource use of fish communities will aid in advancing our ecological understanding and management processes. Based on ecological surveys of hawkfish assemblages (Family: Cirrhitidae) in the Red Sea, we reveal distinct patterns in the distribution and abundance across the continental shelf, wave exposure, and with depth, particularly in the four colour morphs of Paracirrhites forsteri. Distinct patterns were observed among hawkfishes, with higher abundance of all species recorded on reefs farther from shore and on wave exposed reef zones. Cirrhitus spilotoceps was only recorded on the exposed crest, but unlike the other species, did not associate with live coral colonies. Overall, the most abundant species was P. forsteri. This species exploited a variety of habitats but showed an affinity for complex habitats provided by live and dead coral colonies. No difference in habitat use was observed among the four colour morphs, but distinct patterns were apparent in distribution and abundance with depth. This study suggests that in addition to P. forsteri exhibiting diverse colour morphologies, these various morphotypes appear to have corresponding ecological differences in the Red Sea. To better understand this, further studies are needed to identify what these differences extend to and the mechanisms involved.
Bibliographical noteKAUST Repository Item: Exported on 2020-10-01
Acknowledgements: We would like to thank members of the Reef Ecology lab and Sam Payet for assistance with ecological surveys. We are grateful to the personnel from the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) Coastal and Marine Resources Core Lab for logistical support. Hawkfish photographs and Fig 1 were produced by T.H. Sinclair-Taylor. Funding was provided by KAUST (baseline funding to M.L.B.). The manuscript was improved by comments and feedback from the academic editor and two anonymous reviewers.