Scientia Marina, Vol 77, No 2 (2013)

Seasonal dynamics of fish assemblages in an intertidal mudflat of Indian Sundarbans

Atreyee Chaudhuri
Aquatic Bioresource Research Laboratory, Department of Zoology, University of Calcutta , India

Sudeshna Mukherjee
Aquatic Bioresource Research Laboratory, Department of Zoology, University of Calcutta , India

Sumit Homechaudhuri
Aquatic Bioresource Research Laboratory, Department of Zoology, University of Calcutta , India


In the present study, the seasonal and inter-annual fish assemblage structure of intertidal mudflats of Indian Sundarbans was analysed during tidal cycles. A total of 31 fish species belonging to 22 families and 9 orders were collected during high tide, whereas only 12 were recorded during low tide. Fish assemblage descriptions were based on several community descriptors, namely diversity (H′), species richness (S), species dominance (D), and species evenness (J) and on an ecological guild classification. A canonical correspondence analysis (CCA) was performed to evaluate the relationship between estuarine habitat and fish assemblages in the mudflat habitat during inundated and exposed conditions. All the diversity indices showed marked seasonal and inter-annual variations. Temporal variations were also found in fish assemblage structure in both tidal conditions. Estuarine species were the most important ecological guild of the mudflats during both high and low tides. Of all the abiotic variables examined, CCA showed that salinity, pH and nutrients were the most important influencing fish assemblage during high tide. Total dissolved solids, water temperature and salinity were significant during low tide. Considering the importance of mudflats in supporting fish diversity, the present study emphasizes the increased efforts for conservation of this habitat in the Indian Sundarbans.


ichthyofaunal diversity; seasonal variation; tidal variation; mudflats; Bray-Curtis similarity; CCA

Full Text:



Able K.W., Matheson R.E., Morse W.W., Fahay M.P., Shepherd G. 1990. Patterns of summer flounder (Paralichthys dentatus) early in the Mid-Atlantic Bight and New Jersey life history estuaries. Fish. Bull. 88: 1-12.

Amara R., Laffargue P., Dewarumez J.M., Maryniak C., Lagardère F., Luczac C. 2001. Feeding ecology and growth of 0-group flatfishes (sole, dab and plaice) at a nursery ground on the southern North Sea. J. Fish Biol. 58: 788-803.

Amara R., Paul C. 2003. Seasonal patterns in the fish and epibenthic crustaceans community of an intertidal zone with particular reference to the population dynamics of plaice and brown shrimp. Estuar. Coast. Shelf Sci. 56: 807-818.

Ananthan G., Ganesan M., Sampathkumar P., Matheven P.M., Kannan L. 1992. Distribution of trace metals in water, sediment and plankton of the Vellar estuary. Seaweed Res. Util. 15: 69-75.

Asha P., Diwakar. S. 2007. Hydrobiology of the inshore waters off Tuticorin in the Gulf. J. Mar. Biol. Ass. India, 49: 7-11.

Banerjee A. 1998. Environment, population and human settlements of Sunderban Delta. 1st Edn. Concept Publishing Company, New Delhi.

Beitinger T.L., Fitzpatrick L.C. 1979. Physiological and ecological correlates of preferred temperature in fish. Am. Zool. 19: 319-329.

Berger W.H., Parker F.L. 1970. Diversity of planktonic foraminifera in deep sea sediments. Science 168: 1345-1347. PMid:17731043

Bettencourt A., Ramos L. 2003. Estuários Portugueses. Lisbon: INAG. PMCid:PMC149316

Blaber S.J.M. 2000. Tropical estuarine fishes. Ecology, exploitation and conservation. Blackwell Science, Oxford.

Blaber S.J.M., Blaber T.G. 1980. Factors affecting the distribution of juvenile estuarine and inshore fish. J. Fish Biol. 17: 143-162.

Blaber, S.J.M., Brewer D.T., Salinin, J.P. 1989. Species composition and biomasses of fish in different habitats of a tropical northern Australian estuary: their occurrence in the adjoining sea and estuarine dependence. Estuar. Coast. Shelf Sci. 29: 509-531.

Bose S. 2004. The Sunderbans biosphere: a study on uncertainties and impacts in active delta region. In: Proceedings of 2nd. APHW Conference. vol. I. Singapore. pp. 475-483.

Brower J.E., Zar J.H., von Ende C.N. 1998. Field and laboratory methods for general ecology, 4th edn. McGraw-Hill, New York. PMCid:PMC1377227

Cabral H.N., Fonseca V.F., Gamito R. Goncalves C.I., Costa J.L., Erzini K., Goncalves J., Martins J., Leite L., Andrade J.P., Ramos S., Bordalo A., Amorim E., Neto J.M., Marques J.C., Rebelo J.E., Silva C., Castro N., Almeida P.R., Domingos I., Gordo L.S., Costa M.J. 2012. Ecological quality assessment of transitional waters based on fish assemblages in Portuguese estuaries: the Estuarine Fish Assessment Index (EFAI). Ecol. Indic. 19: 144-153.

Cardoso I., França S., Pais M.P., Cancela da Fonseca L., Cabral HN. 2011. Fish assemblages of small estuaries of the Portuguese coast: A functional approach. Estuar. Coast. Shelf Sci. 93: 40-46.

Castillo-Rivera M., Moreno G., Iniestra R. 1994. Spatial, seasonal, and diel variation in abundance of the bay anchovy, Anchoa mitchilli (Teleostei: Engraulidae), in a tropical coastal lagoon of Mexico. Southw. Natur. 39: 263-268.

Castillo-Rivera M., Zarate-Hernandez R., Ortiz-Burgos S., Zavala- Hurtado J. 2010. Diel and seasonal variability in the fish community structure of a mud-bottom estuarine habitat in the Gulf of Mexico. Mar. Ecol. 31: 633-642.

Cattrijsse A., Dankwa HR., Mees J. 1997. Nursery function of an estuarine tidal marsh for the brown shrimp Crangon crangon. J. Sea Res. 38: 109-121.

Chaudhuri A., Mukherjee, S. Homechaudhuri, S. 2012. Diet Composition and Digestive Enzymes Activity in Carnivorous Fishes Inhabiting Mudflats of Indian Sundarban Estuaries. Turk. J. Fish. Aquat. Sci. 12: 265-275.

Childs A.R., Cowley P.D., Næsje T.F., Booth A.J., Potts W.M., Thorstad E.B., Økland F. 2008. Estuarine use by spotted grunter Pomadasys commersonnii in a South African estuary, as determined by acoustic telemetry. Afr. J. Mar. Sci. 30: 123-132.

Clarke K.R. 1993. Non-parametric multivariate analyses of changes in community structure. Aust. J. Ecol. 18: 117-143.

Connolly R.M. 1994. A comparison of fish assemblages from seagrass and unvegetated areas of a southern Australian estuary. Aust. J. Mar Fresh. Res. 45: 1033-1044.

Costa M.J., Elliott M. 1991. Fish usage and feeding in two industrialized estuaries - the Tagus, Portugal, and the Forth, Scotland. In: Elliott M., Ducrotoy JP. (eds), Estuaries and coasts: spatial and temporal intercomparisons. Olsen and Olsen, Fredensborg, pp. 289-297.

Damotharan P., Perumal N.V., Perumal P. 2010. Seasonal variation of physico-chemical characteristics of Point Calimere coastal waters (South east coast of India). Middle-East J. Sci. Res. 6: 333-339.

Das J., Das S.N., Sahoo R.K. 1997. Semidiurnal variation of some physico-chemical parameters in the Mahanadi estuary, East Coast of India. Indian J. Mar. Sci. 26: 323-326.

Day F. 1958. The fishes of India, vol. 1 and 2. William Dawson, London.

Dolbeth M., Cardoso P.G., Ferreira S.M., Verdelhos T., Raffaelli D., Pardal M.A. 2007. Anthropogenic and natural disturbance effects on a macrobenthic estuarine community over a 10-year period. Mar. Pollut. Bull. 54: 576-585. PMid:17240405

Elliott M., Dewailly F. 1995. The structure and components of European estuarine fish assemblages. Neth. J. Aquat. Ecol. 29: 397-417.

Elliott M., Hemingway K.L. (eds), 2002. Fishes in estuaries. Blackwell Science Ltd. Oxford.

França S., Pardal M.A., Cabral H.N. 2008. Mudflat nekton assemblages in the Tagus (Portugal): distribution and feeding patterns. Sci. Mar. 72: 591-602.

Franco A., Elliott M., Franzoi P., Torricelli P. 2008. Life strategies of fishes in European estuaries: the functional guild approach. Mar. Ecol. Prog. Ser. 354: 219-228.

Franco A., Franzoi P., Malavasi S., Riccato F., Torricelli P., Mainardi D. 2006. Use of shallow water habitats by fish assemblages in a Mediterranean coastal lagoon. Estuar. Coast. Shelf Sci. 66: 67-83.

Gelwick F.P., Akin S., Arrington D.A., Winemiller K.O. 2001. Fish assemblage structure in relation to environmental variation in a Texas Gulf coastal wetland. Estuaries 24: 285-296.

Grasshoff K. 1983. Determination of nitrite, nitrate, oxygen, thiosulphate. In: Grasshoff K., Ehrhardt M., Kremling K. (eds), Methods of seawater analysis. Verlag Chemie Weinheim, New York, pp. 139-142, 143-150, 61-72, 81-84.

Grasshoff K., Erhardt M., Kremling K. 1983. Methods of seawater analysis. 2nd edn. Verlag Chemie Weinheim, New York.

Gray C.A., Chick R.C, McElligott D.J. 1998. Diel changes in assemblages of fishes associated with shallow seagrass and bare sand. Estuar. Coast. Shelf Sci. 46: 849-859.

Griffiths S.P. 2001. Factors influencing fish composition in an Australian intermittently open estuary. Is stability salinity-dependent? Estuar. Coast. Shelf Sci. 52: 739-751.

Guelinckx J., Maes J., De Brabandere L., Dehairs F., Ollevier F. 2006. Migration dynamics of clupeoids in the Schelde estuary: a stable isotope approach. Estuar. Coast. Shelf Sci. 66: 612-623.

Guest M.A., Connolly R.M., Loneragan N.R. 2003. Seine nets and beam trawls compared by day and night for sampling fish and crustaceans in shallow seagrass habitat. Fish. Res. 64: 185-196.

Haedrich R.L. 1983. Estuarine fishes. In: Ketchum B. (ed.), Ecosystems of the World: Estuaries and Enclosed Seas. Elsevier, Amsterdam, pp. 183-207.

Halpin P.M. 2000. Habitat use by an intertidal salt-marsh fish: trade-offs between predation and growth. Mar. Ecol. Prog. Ser. 198: 203-214.

Hampel H., Cattrijsse A., Vincx M. 2003. Tidal, diel and semi-lunar changes in the faunal assemblage of an intertidal salt marsh creek. Estuar. Coast. Shelf Sci. 56: 795-805.

Harrison T.D., Whitfield A.K. 2006. Estuarine Typology and the structuring of fish communities in South Africa. Environ. Biol. Fishes 75: 269-293.

Helms B.S., Schoonover J.E., Feminella J.W. 2009. Assessing influences of hydrology, physicochemistry, and habitat on stream fish assemblages across a changing landscape. J. Am. Water Res. Assoc. 45: 157-169.

Hemalatha A. 1996. Studies on benthos from a shrimp farm and in Vellar estuary, Paragipattai. MPhil thesis, Annamalai University, India, 39 pp.

Hindell J.S., Jenkins G.P. 2004. Spatial and temporal variability in the assemblage structure of fishes associated with mangroves (Avicennia marina) and intertidal mudflats in temperate Australian embayments. Mar. Biol. 144: 385-395.

Horinouchi M. 2007. Review of the effects of within-patchscale structural complexity on seagrass fishes. J. Exp. Mar. Biol. Ecol. 350: 111-129.

Hyndes G.A., Potter I.C., Platell M.E., Lenanton R.C.J. 1999. Does the composition of the demersal fish assemblages in temperate waters change with depth and undergo seasonal changes? Mar. Biol. 134: 335-352.

Jenkins G.P., Wheatley M.J. 1998. The influence of habitat structure on nearshore fish assemblages in a southern Australian embayment: comparison of shallow seagrass, reef-algal and unvegetated sand habitats, with emphasis on their importance to recruitment. J. Exp. Mar. Biol. Ecol. 221: 147-172.

Kannan R., Kannan L. 1996. Physico-chemical characteristics of sea weed beds of the Palk Bay, Southeast coast of India. Indian J. Mar. Sci. 25: 358-362.

Kanou K., Sano M., Kohno H. 2005. Larval and juvenile fishes occurring with flood tides on an intertidal mudflat in the Tama River estuary, central Japan. Ichthyol. Res. 52: 158-164.

Maes J., Stevens M., Ollevier F. 2005. The composition and community structure of the ichthyofauna of the upper Scheldt estuary: synthesis of a 10-year data collection (1991-2001). J. Appl. Ichthyol. 21: 86-93.

Maes J., van Damme P.A., Taillieu A., Ollevier F. 1998. Fish communities along an oxygen-poor salinity gradient (Zeeschelde Estuary, Belgium). J. Fish Biol. 52: 534-546.

Margalef R. 1957. La teoría de la información en ecología. Mem. R. Acad. Ciencias. Barcelona 32: 373-449.

Mathieson S., Cattrijsse A., Costa M.J., Drake P., Elliot M., Gardner J., Marchand J. 2000. Fish assemblages of European tidal marshes: a comparison based on species, families and functional guilds. Mar. Ecol. Prog. Ser. 204: 225-242.

McGarigal K., Cushman S., Stafford S. 2000. Multivariate Statistics for Wildlife and Ecology Research. New York: Springer-Verlag.

McLusky D.S., Elliott M. 2004. The estuarine ecosystem; ecology, threats and management, 3rd edn. OUP, Oxford, 216 pp.

Melville A.J., Connolly R.M. 2005. Food webs supporting fish over subtropical mudflats are based on transported organic matter not in situ microalgae. Mar. Biol. 148: 363-371.

Methven D.A., Haedrich R.L., Rose G.A. 2001. The fish assemblage of a Newfoundland estuary: Diel, monthly and annual variation. Estuar. Coast. Shelf Sci. 52: 669-687.

Mondal D.K., Kaviraj A., Saha S. 2010. Water quality parameters and fish biodiversity indices as measures of ecological degradation: A case study in two floodplain lakes of India. J. Water Resource and Protection. 2: 85-92.

Morrison M., Francis M., Hartill B., Parkinson D. 2002. Diurnal and tidal variation in the abundance of the fish fauna of atemperate tidal mudflat. Estuar. Coast. Shelf Sci. 54: 793-807.

Mukherjee S., Chaudhuri A., Sen S., Homechaudhuri S. 2012. Effect of cyclone Aila on estuarine fish assemblages in the Matla River of the Indian Sundarbans. J. Trop. Ecol. 28: 405-415. Mumby P.J., Skirving W., Strong A.E., Hardy J.T., LeDrew E.F., Hochberg E.J., Stumpf R.P., David L.T. 2004. Remote sensing of coral reefs and their physical environment. Mar. Pollut. Bull. 48: 219-228.

Nagelkerken I., van der Velde G. 2002. Non-estuarine mangroves harbour higher densities of juvenile fish than adjacent shallow-water and coral reef habitats in Curaçao (Netherlands Antilles). Mar. Ecol. Prog. Ser. 245: 191-204.

Nanjo K., Kohno H., Sano M. 2008. Food habits of fishes in the mangrove estuary of Urauchi River, Iriomote Island, southern Japan. Fish. Sci. 74: 1024-1033.

Narain S., Chavhan R. 2000. Water quality status of river complex Yamuna at Panchlnada (Dist. Etawahd, V.P. India) I: An integrated management approach. Poll. Res. 19(3): 357-364.

Nip T.H.M., Wong C.K. 2010. Juvenile Fish Assemblages in Mangrove and Non-Mangrove Soft-Shore Habitats in Eastern Hong Kong. Zool. Stud. 49: 760-778.

Norušis M.J. 2000. SPSS for Windows. Chicago, Illinois: SPSS Inc. Paterson A.W., Whitfield A.K. 2000. Do shallow-water habitats function as refugia for juvenile fishes? Estuar. Coast. Shelf Sci. 51: 359-364.

Pielou E.C. 1969. An introduction to mathematical ecology. New York: Wiley.

Pihl L., Wennhage H. 2002. Structure and diversity of fish assemblages on rocky and soft bottom shores on the Swedish west coast. J. Fish Biol. 61: 148-166.

Pombo L., Rebleo J.E., Elliott M. 2007. The structure, diversity and somatic production of the fish community in an estuarine coastal lagoon, Ria de Aveiro (Portugal). Hydrobiologia 587: 253-268.

Rajasegar M. 2003. Physico-chemical characteristics of the Vellar estuary in relation to shrimp farming. J Environ. Biol. 24: 95-101. PMid:12974418

Rakocinski C.F., Lyczkowski-Shultz J., Richardson S.L. 1996. Ichthyoplankton Assemblage structure in Mississippi Sound as revealed by canonical correspondence analysis. Estuar. Coast. and Shelf Sci. 43: 237-257.

Rountree R.A., Able K.W. 1993. Diel variation in decapod crustacean and fish assemblages in New Jersey marsh creeks. Estuar. Coast. Shelf Sci. 37: 181-201.

Salgado J., Costa M.J., Cabral H., Deegan L. 2004. Comparison of the fish assemblages in tidal salt marsh creeks and in adjoining mudflat areas in the Tejo estuary (Portugal). Cah. Biol. Mar. 45: 213-224.

Satpathy K.K. 1996. Seasonal distribution of nutrients in the coastal waters of Kalpakkam, east coast of India. Indian J. Mar. Sci. 25: 221-224.

Selleslagh J., Amara R. 2007. Temporal variations in abundance and species composition of fish and epibenthic crustaceans of an intertidal zone: environmental factor influence. Cybium 31: 155-162.

Selleslagh J., Amara R. 2008. Environmental factors structuring fish composition and assemblages in a small macrotidal estuary (eastern English Channel). Estuar. Coast. Shelf Sci. 79: 507-517.

Shannon C.E., Wiener W. 1949. The mathematical theory of communication. University of Illinois Press, Urbana, Illinois, 125 pp.

Shaw G.E., Shebbeare E.O. 1937. The fishes of North Bengal. J. Roy. Asiatic Soc. Bengal 3: 1-137.

Sogard S.M., Able K.W. 1991. A comparison of eelgrass, sea lettuce macroalgae, and marsh creeks as habitats for epibenthic fishes and decapods. Estuar. Coast. Shelf Sci. 33: 501-519.

Sogard S.M., Powell G.V.N., Hoimquisr J.G. 1989. Utilization by fishes of shallow, seagrass-covered mudbanks in Florida Bay. 2. Diel and tidal patterns. Environ. Biol. Fish. 24: 81-92.

Soundarapandian P., Premkumar T., Dinakaran G.K. 2009. Studies on the physico-chemical characteristic and nutrients in the Uppanar estuary of Cuddalore, South east coast of India. Curr. Res. J. Biol. Sci. 1: 102-105.

Strickland J.D., Parsons T.R. 1972. A practical handbook of seawater analysis. Bull. Fish. Res. Board Can. 167: 310.

Talwar P.K., Jhingran A.G. 1991. Inland fishes of India and adjacent countries, vol. 1 and 2. Oxford and IBH Publishing Co. Pvt. Ltd, New Delhi.

Ter Braak C.J.F. 1988. Partial canonical correspondence analysis. In: Bock H.H. (ed.), Classification and related methods of data analysis. North-Holland, Amsterdam, pp. 551-558.

Thiel R., Potter I.C. 2001. The ichthyofaunal composition of the Elbe Estuary: an analysis in space and time. Mar. Biol. 138: 603-616.

Thiel R., Sepúlveda A., Kafemann R., Nellen W. 1995. Environmental factors as forces structuring the fish community. J. Fish Biol. 46: 47-69.

van der Veer H.W., Dapper R., Witte J. 2001. The nursery function of the intertidal areas in the western Wadden Sea for 0-group sole Solea solea (L). J. Sea Res. 45: 271-279.

Vinagre C., França S., Cabral H.N. 2006. Diel and semi-lunar patterns in the use of an intertidal mudflat by juveniles of Senegal sole, Solea senegalensis. Estuar. Coast. Shelf Sci. 69: 246-254.

Weerts S.P., Cyrus D.P. 2002. Occurrence of young and small-sized fishes in different habitats within a subtropical South African estuary and adjacent harbour. Mar. Freshwat. Res. 53: 447-456.

West R.J., King R.J. 1996. Marine, brackish, and freshwater fish communities in the vegetated and bare shallows of an Australian coastal river. Estuaries 19: 31-41.

Whitfield A.K. 1999. Ichthyofaunal assemblages in estuaries: A South African case study. Rev. Fish Biol. Fisher. 9: 151-186.

Winemiller K.O., Tarim S., Shormann D., Cotner J.B. 2000. Fish assemblage structure in relation to environmental variation among Brazos River Oxbow Lakes. T. Am. Fish. Soc. 129 (2): 451-468.<0451:FASIRT>2.0.CO;2

Zar J.H. 1984. Biostatistical analysis. Prentice-Hall, Englewood Cliffs, N.J. PMid:6436396

Copyright (c) 2013 Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas (CSIC)

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

Contact us

Technical support