The Science of Nature

, 104:33 | Cite as

From smooth to rough, from water to air: the intertidal habitat of Northern clingfish (Gobiesox maeandricus)

  • Petra Ditsche
  • Madeline Hicks
  • Lisa Truong
  • Christina Linkem
  • Adam Summers
Original Paper


The Northern clingfish is a small, Eastern North Pacific fish that can attach to rough, fouled rocks in the intertidal. Their ability to attach to surfaces has been measured previously in the laboratory, and in this study, we show the roughness and fouling of the natural habitat of these fish. We introduce a new method for measuring surface roughness of natural substrates with time-limited accessibility. We expect this method to be broadly applicable in studies of animal/substrate surface interactions in habitats difficult to characterize. Our roughness measurements demonstrate that the fish’s ability to attach to very coarse roughness is required in its natural environment. Some of the rocks showed even coarser roughness than the fish could attach to in the lab setting. We also characterized the clingfish’s preference for other habitat descriptors such as the size of the rocks, biofilm, and Aufwuchs (macroalgae, encrusting invertebrates) cover, as well as grain size of underlying substrate. Northern clingfish seek shelter under rocks of 15–45 cm in size. These rocks have variable Aufwuchs cover, and gravel is the main underlying substrate type. In the intertidal, environmental conditions change with the tides, and for clingfish, the daily time under water (DTUW%) was a key parameter explaining distribution. Rather than location being determined by intertidal zonation, an 80% DTUW, a finer scale concept of tidal inundation, was required by the fish. We expect that this is likely because the mobility of the fish allows them to more closely track the ideal inundation in the marine intertidal.


Roughness measurement Fouling Aufwuchs Intertidal Substrate 



This work was financially supported by the University of Hawaii MARC U-STAR and Friday Harbor Labs Blinks-NSF REU-BEACON Program (DBI-1262239), NSF IOS-1256602 to APS, and a UW STEP grant to PD.

Supplementary material

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ESM 1 (EPS 3133 kb)
114_2017_1454_Fig10_ESM.jpg (252 kb)

High resolution image (JPEG 252 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Petra Ditsche
    • 1
    • 2
  • Madeline Hicks
    • 1
    • 3
  • Lisa Truong
    • 1
    • 4
  • Christina Linkem
    • 1
    • 5
  • Adam Summers
    • 1
  1. 1.Friday Harbor LaboratoriesUniversity of WashingtonFriday HarborUSA
  2. 2.Biological SciencesUniversity of Alaska AnchorageAnchorageUSA
  3. 3.College of the EnvironmentUniversity of WashingtonSeattleUSA
  4. 4.Department of BiologyWellesley CollegeWellesleyUSA
  5. 5.Department of BiologyUniversity of Hawaii at ManoaHonoluluUSA

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