Marine Biology

, Volume 41, Issue 4, pp 317–333 | Cite as

Distribution, abundance, and substrate preferences of demersal reef zooplankton at Lizard Island Lagoon, Great Barrier Reef

  • A. L. Alldredge
  • J. M. King


Demersal zooplankton, those plankton which hide within reef sediments during the day but emerge to swim freely over the reef at night, were sampled quantitatively using emergence traps planced over the substrate at Lizard Island Lagoon, Great Barrier Reef. Densities of zooplankton emerging at night from 6 substrate types (fine, medium, and coarse sand, rubble, living coral and reef rock) and from 5 reef zones (seaward face, reef flat, lagoon, back reef, and sand flat) were determined. A large population of nocturnal plankton including cumaceans, mysids, ostracods, shrimp, isopods, amphipods, crustacean larvae, polychaetes, foraminiferans and copepods are resident members of the reef community at Lizard Island. The mean density of plankton emerging throughout the reef was 2510±388 (standard error) zooplankton/m2 of substrate. Biomass averaged 66.2±5.4 mg ash-free dry weight/m2 of substrate. Demersal zooplankton exhibited significant preferences for substrate types and reef zones. The highest mean density of zooplankton emerged from coral (11,264±1952 zooplankton/m2) while the lowest emerged from reef rock (840±106 zooplankton/m2). The density of demersal plankton was six times greater on the face than in any other zone, averaging 7900±1501 zooplankton/m2. Copepods dominated samples collected over living coral and rubble while foraminiferans, ostracods and decapod larvae were most abundant from sand. Plankton collected with nets at night correlated only qualitatively with plankton collected in emergence traps from the same location. Although abundant, demersal plankton were not numerous enough to meet the metabolic needs of all corals at Lizard Island Lagoon. Demersal plankton appear especially adapted to avoid fish predation. The predator-avoidance strategies of demersal plankton and maintenance of position on the reef are discussed. Our results indicate that much of the zooplankton over coral reefs actually lives on the reef itself and that previous studies using standard net sampling techniques have greatly underestimated plankton abundance over coral reefs.


Coral Reef Polychaete Coarse Sand Great Barrier Reef Substrate Type 
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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1977

Authors and Affiliations

  • A. L. Alldredge
    • 1
  • J. M. King
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Biological SciencesUniversity of CaliforniaSanta BarbaraUSA
  2. 2.Marine Science InstituteUniverity of CaliforniaSanta BarbaraUSA

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