June 12, 2011
Over the last ten days we were fortunate to have excellent weather and a hard working research team. We completed surveys of representative reefs around both islands, hitting nearly every location we had planned. Throughout this series of blogs, I mentioned a lot about the reef-builders, but have said little about reef fish and other megafauna. We had a very talented team conducting quantitative belt transects to assess species abundance and size and local divers assessing species diversity. We now have a detailed picture of the species diversity and population dynamics of reef-associated fishes.
Like other locations in the Caribbean, we saw a lot of small reef fish, including large schools of chromis, bluehead wrasse, creole wrasses, hamlets, damselfishes, highhats and drums, soldierfish, and juveniles of many species. However, there were few large fishes and certain species were completely absent. Throughout the entire mission we did not see a single grouper and their close relatives, the hind and coney, were much smaller and less abundant than in most other locations. Snapper were notably absent. There was the occasional schoolmaster snapper, and a few other isolated individuals, but characteristic schools of schoolmaster snapper, large gray snapper, lane snapper, yellowtail snapper, mutton snapper and other species were rare or absent. Few pelagic predators were seen, other than a few small schools of horse eye jack and bar jack, and the isolated cero.
Butterflyfishes and angelfishes were present, but in very low numbers. Only a few locations supported schools of grunts, and individual margates, hogfish and porkfish were seen only once or twice. Queen triggerfish were also rare, but some exposed sites had large numbers of black durgon.
Few Queen triggerfish were found on the reef
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