Marine Biology

, Volume 149, Issue 2, pp 149–167 | Cite as

Structure of a Mediterranean cryptobenthic fish community and its relationships with habitat characteristics

  • G. La MesaEmail author
  • S. Di Muccio
  • M. Vacchi
Research Article


In the last 10 years, several studies have been carried out on the fish fauna of the Ustica Island marine reserve, yet no investigation was specifically addressed to the cryptobenthic fish assemblage. The first task of this study, conducted along the shallow rocky reefs of Ustica, was to determine the species composition, diversity and relative density of the resident cryptobenthic fishes. Furthermore, we aimed to assess the effects of some macro- and microscale habitat characteristics on the distribution pattern of fishes. In particular, the effect of predator density was indirectly evaluated by comparing density data collected within and outside the integral reserve zone. Overall, 20 species belonging to Blenniidae, Gobiidae, Tripterygiidae, Scorpaenidae and Gobiesocidae were recorded. Gobius bucchichi, Scorpaena maderensis, Tripterygion delaisi, T. melanurus and T. tripteronotus were the numerically dominant and most common species. The effects of zone (i.e. of predator density), bottom type and depth on species richness, diversity and evenness were not significant. A greater total fish density was observed on stones compared with rocky cliff and plateau, but only in the shallowest depth range. At level of single species, G. bucchichi was more abundant inside than outside the integral reserve, but only on stones and at 0–2 m depth range. Density of G. bucchichi was generally higher on stones than on rocky cliffs or plateau and between 0 and 5 m depth, although these differences were not always significant. T. delaisi was conversely more abundant in the deepest stratum (7–10 m). Canonical analyses demonstrated that bottom type and depth influenced significantly the fish assemblage structure. The observed differences in the assemblage structure relied mainly upon the dominant species. T. tripteronotus was mainly associated with rocky plateau and the intermediate depth range (3–5 m), whereas S. maderensis, T. melanurus and Lipophrys trigloides inhabited preferentially the rocky cliffs. At microscale level, the habitat choice of the investigated species was almost entirely based on whether the substrate was either vegetated or composed of bare rock. T. delaisi and T. tripteronotus were associated with substrata covered by algae, whilst G. bucchichi, S. maderensis and T. melanurus preferred bare rock bottoms. In some species, the electivity indices for the less abundant type of cover, measured at different spatial scale, changed accordingly. For instance, the smaller the size of the sampled area, the higher was the intensity of the association between G. bucchichi and Anemonia viridis.


Fish Assemblage Marine Reserve Bare Rock Algal Cover Fish Assemblage Structure 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



We appreciate the two anonymous referees for their suggestions for improving the manuscript. The research was supported by funds provided by the Natural Marine Reserve of Ustica Island.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.ICRAM, Istituto Centrale per la Ricerca Applicata al MareRomeItaly

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