Scientia Marina, Vol 78, No 2 (2014)

Abundance and behavioural ecology of the blenny Ophioblennius trinitatis (Teleostei: Blenniidae) at an oceanic archipelago of Brazil (Atlantic)

Paulo R. Medeiros
Unidade Acadêmica de Ciências Exatas e da Natureza, Universidade Federal de Campina Grande - Centro de Ciências Exatas e da Natureza, Universidade Federal da Paraíba, Brazil

Danilo P. Rada
Centro de Ciências Exatas e da Natureza, Universidade Federal da Paraíba, Brazil

Ricardo S. Rosa
Centro de Ciências Exatas e da Natureza, Universidade Federal da Paraíba, Brazil


Local patterns of fish density, microhabitat use, feeding behaviour, bite rate, territory area and agonistic interactions were recorded for Ophioblennius trinitatis at an oceanic archipelago (southwestern Atlantic). Rugosity, number of crevices and benthic diversity positively predicted the distribution of O. trinitatis. Turf algae was the preferred food item at all sites, but given its high availability inside and outside territory boundaries, it did not seem to be a limiting factor on the density of this blenny, as opposed to substrate heterogeneity. Bite rate was higher in the afternoon and for smaller individuals (juveniles). Territory size showed local variation and, although larger territories may be an effect of density-dependent conditions (more available space in low-density areas), we propose that individuals expand territories to compensate for residing in areas of lower quality (i.e. of low structural complexity). Larger individuals defended larger territories and residents responded differently to intruders, with higher rates of agonistic interactions towards potential competitors. Higher agonistic rates were also observed in larger territories and at low-complexity sites.


behaviour; Blennidae; Brazil; density; territory; microhabitat

Full Text:



Bath H. 1990. Blenniidae. In: Quero J.C., Hureau J.C., Karrer C. et al. (eds), Check-list of the fishes of the eastern tropical Atlantic (CLOFETA). SEI UNESCO, Lisboa, 1490 pp.

Bonaldo R.M., Krajewski J.P., Sazima I. 2005. Meals for two: foraging activity of the butterflyfish Chaetodon striatus (Perciformes) in southeast Brazil. Braz. J. Biol. 65: 211-215. PMid:16097723

Dill L.M. 1978. An energy-based model of optimal feeding-territory size. Theor. Popul. Biol. 14: 396 429.

Ebersole J.P. 1977. The adaptive significance of interspecific territories in the reef fish, Eupomacentrus leucostictus. Ecology 58: 914-920.

Ebersole J.P. 1980. Food density and territory size: An alternative model and a test on the reef fish (Eupomacentrus leucostictus). Am. Nat. 115: 492-509.

Eston V.R., Migotto A.E., Oliveira-Filho E.C., et al. 1986. Vertical distribution of benthic marine organisms on rocky coasts of the Fernando de Noronha Archipelago (Brazil). Bol. Inst. Oceanogr. 34: 37-53.

Ferreira C.E.L., Floeter S.R., Gasparini J.L., et al. 2004. Trophic structure patterns of Brazilian reef fishes: a latitudinal comparison. J. Biogeogr. 31: 1093-1106.

Floeter S.R., Gasparini J.L. 2000. The southwestern Atlantic reef fish fauna: composition and zoogeographic patterns. J. Fish Biol. 56: 1099-1114.

Floeter S.R., Gasparini J.L. 2001. The Brazilian endemic reef fishes. Coral Reefs 19: 292.

Floeter S.R., Behrens M.D., Ferreira C.E.L., et al. 2005. Geographical gradients of marine herbivorous fishes: patterns and processes. Mar. Biol. 147: 1435-1447.

Foster S.A. 1985. Group foraging by a coral reef fish: a mechanism for gaining access to defended resources. Anim. Behav. 33: 782-792.

Friedlander A.M., Parrish J.D. 1998. Habitat characteristics affecting fish assemblages on a Hawaiian coral reef. J. Exp. Mar. Biol. Ecol. 224: 1-30.

Guimarães R.Z.P., De Bacellar A.C.L.H. 2002. Review of the Brazilian species of Paraclinus (Teleostei: Labrisomidae), with descriptions of two new species and revalidation of Paraclinus rubicundus (Starks). Copeia 2: 419-427.[0419:ROTBSO]2.0.CO;2

Haley M.P., Mu.ller C.R. 2002. Territorial behaviour of beaugregory damselfish (Stegastes leucostictus) in response to egg predators. J. Exp. Mar. Biol. Ecol. 273: 151-159.

Hernaman V., Probert P.K., Robbins W.D. 2009. Trophic ecology of coral reef gobies: interspecific, ontogenetic, and seasonal comparison of diet and feeding intensity. Mar. Biol. 156: 317-330.

Humann P., DeLoach N. 2002. Reef fish identification: Florida, Caribbean, Bahamas. New World Publications, Miami. PMid:12227564

Iguchi K., Abe S. 2002. Territorial defense of an excess food supply by an algal grazing fish, ayu. Ecol. Res. 17: 373-380.

Ivlev V.S. 1961. Experimental ecology of the feeding of fishes. Yale University Press, New Haven.

Jones G.P., Norman M.D. 1986. Feeding selectivity in relation to territory size in a herbivorous reef fish. Oecologia 68: 549-556.

Jones G.P., Syms C. 1998. Disturbance, habitat structure and the ecology of fishes on coral reefs. Aust. J. Ecol. 23: 287-297.

Kohler K.E., Gill S.M. 2006. Coral Point Count with Excel extensions (CPCe): a visual basic program for the determination of coral and substrate coverage using random point count methodology. Comput. Geosci. 32: 1259-1269.

Labelle M., Nursall J.R. 1985. Some aspects of the early life history of red lip blenny, Ophioblennius atlanticus macciureii (Pisces: Blenniidae). Copeia 1985: 39-49.

Labelle M., Nursall J.R. 1992. Population biology of the redlip blenny, Ophioblennius atlanticus macclurei (sylvester) in Barbados. Bull. Mar. Sci. 50: 186-204.

Lehner P.N. 1996. Handbook of ethological methods. University Press, Cambridge.

Letourneur Y. 1992. Spatial and temporal variability in territoriality of a tropical benthic damselfish on a coral reef (Réunion Island). Env. Biol. Fish. 57: 377-391.

Low R.M. 1971. Interspecific territoriality in a pomacentrid reef fish, Pomacentrus flavicauda Whitley. Ecology 52: 648-654.

Luckhurst B.E., Luckhurst K. 1978. Analysis of the influence of substrate variables on coral reef fish communities. Mar. Biol. 49: 317-323.

Marraro C.M., Nursall J.R. 1983. The reproductive periodicity and behaviour of Ophioblennius atlanticus (Pisces: Blenniidae) at Barbados. Can. J. Zool. 61: 317-325.

McCormick M.I. 1994. Comparison of field methods for measuring surface topography and their associations with a tropical reef fish assemblage. Mar. Ecol. Prog. Ser. 112: 87-96.

Medeiros P.R., Grempel R.G., Souza A.T., et al. 2010a. Non-random reef use by fishes at two dominant zones in a tropical, algal-dominated coastal reef. Environ. Biol. Fish. 87: 237-246.

Medeiros P.R., Souza A.T., Ilarri M.I. 2010b. Habitat use and behavioural ecology of the juveniles of two sympatric damselfishes (Actinopterygii: Pomacentridae) in the south-western Atlantic Ocean. J. Fish Biol. 77: 1599-1615. PMid:21078021

Meekan M.G., Kuerthy C., McCormick M.I. et al. 2010. Behavioural mediation of the costs and benefits of fast growth in a marine fish. Anim. Behav. 79: 803-809.

Mendes L.F. 2006. História natural dos amborés e peixes-macaco (Actinopterygii, Blennioidei, Gobioidei) do Parque Nacional Marinho do Arquipélago de Fernando de Noronha, sob um enfoque comportamental. Rev. Bras. Zool. 23: 817-823.

Mendes L.F. 2007. Ophioblennius trinitatis (Pisces: Blenniidae) from the oceanic archipelagos of São Pedro e São Paulo, Fernando de Noronha and Atol das Rocas. Braz. J. Oceanogr. 55: 63-65.

Morgan I.E., Kramer D.L. 2004. The social organization of adult blue tangs, Acanthurus coeruleus, on a fringing reef, Barbados, West Indies. Env. Biol. Fish. 71: 261-273.

Moura R.L., Figueiredo J.L., Sazima I. 2001. A new parrotfish (Scaridae) from Brazil, and revalidation of Sparisoma amplum (Ranzani, 1842), Sparisoma frondosum (Agassiz, 1831), Sparisoma axillare (Steindachner, 1878) and Scarus trispinosus (Valenciennes, 1840). Bull. Mar. Sci. 68: 505-524.

Muss A., Robertson D.R., Stepien C.A., et al. 2001. Phylogeography of Ophioblennius: the role of ocean currents and geography in reef fish evolution. Evolution 55: 561-572.[0561:POOTRO]2.0.CO;2

Norman M.D., Jones G.P. 1984. Determinants of territory size in the pomacentrid reef fish, Parma victoriae. Oecologia 61: 60-69.

Nursall J.R. 1977. Territoriality in redlip blennies, Ophioblennius atlanticus (Pisces: Blenniidae). J. Zool. 182: 205-223.

Nursall J.R. 1981. The activity budget and use of territory by a tropical blenniid fish. Zool. J. Linn Soc-Lond. 72: 69-92.

Nursall J.R. 1989. Buoyancy is provided by lipids of larval redlip blennies, Ophioblennius atlanticus (Teleostei: Blenniidae). Copeia 1989: 614-621.

Nursall J.R., Turner L. 1985. The liver supports metamorphosis in the Caribbean reef blenniid, Ophioblennius atlanticus. Proc. 5th Int. Cor. Reef Symp. 5: 457-462.

Picciulin M., Sebastianutto L., Costantini M. et al. 2006. Aggressive territorial ethogram of the of the red-mouthed goby, Gobius cruentatus (Gmelin, 1789). Electron. J. Ichthyol. 2: 38-49.

Preskitt L.B., Vroom P.S., Smith C.M. 2004. A rapid ecological assessment (REA) quantitative survey method for benthic algae using photoquadrats with scuba. Pac. Sci. 58: 201-209.

Randall J.E. 1996. Caribbean reef fishes. T. F. H. Publications Inc., Hong Kong.

Rangel C.A., Mendes L.F. 2009. Review of blenniid fishes from Fernando de Noronha Archipelago, Brazil, with description of a new species of Scartella (Teleostei: Blenniidae). Zootaxa. 2006: 51-61.

Roberts C.M. 1987. Experimental analysis of resource sharing between herbivorous damselfish and blennies on the Great Barrier Reef. J. Exp. Mar. Biol. Ecol. 111: 61-75.

Robertson D.R. 1984. Cohabitation of competing territorial damselfishes on a Caribbean coral reef. Ecology 65: 1121-1135.

Robertson D.R., Polunin N.V.C. 1981. Coexistence: symbiotic sharing of feeding territories and algal food by some coral reef fishes from the Western Indian Ocean. Mar. Biol. 62: 185-195.

Rocha L.A. 2004. Mitochondrial DNA and color pattern variation in three western Atlantic Halichoeres (Labridae), with the revalidation of two species. Copeia 2004: 770-782.

Rocha L.A., Rosa R.S. 2001. Halichoeres brasiliensis (Bloch, 1791), a valid wrasse species (Teleostei: Labridae) from Brazil, with notes on the Caribbean species Halichoeres radiatus (Linnaeus, 1758). Aqua J. Ichthyol. Aqua. Biol. 4: 161-166.

Rylander M.K., Koster F. 1982. Observations on the biology of the redlip blenny Ophioblennius trinitatis (Pisces: Blenniidae) on the Colombian coast of the Caribbean. An. Inst. Invest. Mar. Punta Betin. 12: 105-115.

Sale P.F. 1978. Coexistence of coral reef fishes, a lottery for living space. Env. Biol. Fish. 3: 85-102.

Sale P.F., Douglas W.A. 1984. Temporal variability in the community structure of fish on coral patch reefs and the relation of community structure to reef structure. Ecology 65: 409-422.

Sokal R.R., Rohlf F.J. 1995. Biometry. W.H. Freeman and Company, New York.

Souza A.T., Ilarri M.I., Rosa I.L. 2010. Habitat use, feeding and territorial behavior of a Brazilian endemic damselfish Stegastes rocasensis (Actinopterygii: Pomacentridae). Env. Biol. Fish. 91: 133-144.

Townsend K.A., Tibbetts I.R. 2004. The ecological significance of the combtoothed blenny in a coral reef ecosystem. J. Fish Biol. 65: 77-90.

Warner R., Hoffman S.G. 1980. Population density and the economics of territorial defense in a coral reef fish. Ecology 61: 772-780.

Copyright (c) 2014 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