Scientia Marina, Vol 84, No 1 (2020)

A quantitative assessment of the diel influence on the cryptobenthic fish assemblage of the shallow Mediterranean infralittoral zone

Igor Glavičić
Department of Marine Studies, University of Split, Croatia

Marcelo Kovačić
Natural History Museum Rijeka, Croatia

Alen Soldo
Department of Marine Studies, University of Split, Croatia

Ulrich Schliewen
Bavarian Natural History Collections, The Bavarian State Collection of Zoology, Department of Ichthyology, Germany


Cryptobenthic fishes are an underestimated and probably important component of coastal marine ecosystems that are usually overlooked by standard methods for collecting and studying benthic fishes. Studies focusing on cryptobenthic fishes have been rare and all have been based on samples taken during daytime. The present study tested the difference in epibenthic and cryptobenthic fish composition, diel differences in cryptobenthic fish assemblage and diel shifts of infralittoral fish species between hidden and open bottom spaces. It also looked for the significant habitat variables structuring the cryptobenthic fish assemblage. The daylight, sunset and night samples of epibenthic and cryptobenthic fish assemblages were collected from 78 squares of 1 m2 shallow water plots (0.5 to 3 m) on Brač island in the eastern Adriatic. The study recorded 27 species, among which the family Gobiidae dominated fish diversity with 14 species. Cryptobenthic specimens highly outnumbered epibenthic specimens, with a ratio of 7.5 to 1. Species composition of cryptobenthic and epibenthic fish assemblages differed significantly. No diel variation in composition, species richness or abundance of the cryptobenthic fish assemblage was detected. Occurrence frequencies in hidden and open bottom spaces of ambivalent species did not change significantly between times of day, so no dial switches between open and hidden places were apparent. In combination, these results suggest that the cryptobenthic fish assemblage has diel stability and is mostly composed of permanent inhabitants of hidden spaces with domination of miniature gobies. Significant habitat variables for species occurrence were the presence of multiple layers, bottom inclination and the presence of cobbles, while depth also had a large but not significant effect.


cryptic fishes; diel influence; multivariate analysis; habitat utilization; benthos; littoral zone

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