Microhabitat Association of Cryptobenthic Reef Fishes (Teleostei: Gobiidae) in the Central Red Sea

  • Emily Troyer

Student thesis: Master's Thesis


Knowledge of biodiversity within an ecosystem is essential when trying to understand the function and importance of that ecosystem. A challenge when assessing biodiversity of reef habitats is cryptobenthic fishes, which encompass many groups that have close associations with the substrate. These fishes can be behaviorally cryptic, by seeking refuge within the reef matrix, or visually cryptic, using cryptic coloration to match the surrounding habitat. These factors make visual surveys inadequate for sampling these fishes. One such group of cryptobenthic fishes are the gobies, family Gobiidae, which currently represent over 1600 species, although new species are continually being discovered. Gobies are often small (less than 5 cm), and many species will be associated with a very specific microhabitat type. Due to the understudied nature of the Red Sea, little is known about habitat preferences of gobies within the region. In order to determine the differences in goby community structure within the central Red Sea, fishes were sampled at one reef using 1 m² enclosed rotenone stations from three distinct microhabitats: hard coral, rubble, and sand. Following collection, specimens were photographed and sequenced using COI, to aid in species identification. 232 individuals were collected representing 31 species of goby. Rubble microhabitats were found to host the majority of collected gobies (69%), followed by hard coral (20.6%), then sand (9.9%). Goby assemblages in the three microhabitats were significantly different from each other, and evidence of habitat-specialists was found. These results provide essential baseline information about the ecology of understudied cryptobenthic fishes that can be used in future large-scale studies in the Red Sea region.
Date of AwardMay 2018
Original languageEnglish (US)
Awarding Institution
  • Biological, Environmental Sciences and Engineering
SupervisorMichael Berumen (Supervisor)


  • coral reef
  • Cryptobenthic Fish
  • Gobiidae
  • microhabitat
  • fish ecology
  • biodiversity

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