Environmental Biology of Fishes

, Volume 73, Issue 4, pp 415–426 | Cite as

Estimating the density and biomass of moray eels (Muraenidae) using a modified visual census method for hole-dwelling reef fauna

  • Marianne Gilbert
  • Joseph B. Rasmussen
  • Donald L. Kramer


We developed a modified visual census technique suitable for fairly sedentary, hole-dwelling species and used it to determine the diversity, density, biomass, and habitat use of morays at four sites including fringing, patch, and bank reefs in Barbados, West Indies. The method involved a careful search during two passages over transects by day and by night, noting size and position of morays seen, and using the number of new observations on the second passage to estimate the proportion of morays not seen. First passage counts were generally higher than numbers of morays recorded in previous visual censuses. These estimates were raised when we used the time period (day or night) with the highest average density visible for each species, added different individuals from the two passages, and corrected for individuals not seen. We saw more goldentail morays (Gymnothorax miliaris) during the day but more spotted (G. moringa), viper (Enchelycore nigricans), and chestnut (E. carychroa) morays at night. Counts of chain morays (Echidna catenata) did not differ significantly between night and day. Relative abundance and size of moray species varied among sites and to a lesser extent among habitat types within sites, but spotted morays were generally the most important in numbers and biomass. Mean estimated moray density and biomass were much higher than in most previous visual censuses, but similar to rotenone samples on other reefs and comparable to those of other families of predatory fishes. Our findings confirm that morays are abundant and potentially important predators that should be the focus of more attention in ecological studies of coral reefs.


activity periods Barbados Caribbean piscivore predatory reef fishes UVC 


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Copyright information

© Springer 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Marianne Gilbert
    • 1
  • Joseph B. Rasmussen
    • 1
    • 2
  • Donald L. Kramer
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of BiologyMcGill UniversityMontrealCanada
  2. 2.Department of Biological SciencesUniversity of LethbridgeLethbridgeCanada

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