Environmental Biology of Fishes

, Volume 100, Issue 2, pp 111–120 | Cite as

The ecology of Altrichthys azurelineatus and A. curatus, two damselfishes that lack a pelagic larval phase

  • Giacomo Bernardi
  • Nicole L. Crane
  • Gary C. Longo
  • Angela L. Quiros


Out of more than 380 species of damselfish, only three lack a pelagic larval phase, Acanthochromis polyacanthus, that ranges from the Philippines to the Great Barrier Reef, and two species in the genus Altrichthys, A. azurelineatus and A. curatus, that are restricted to the Calamian Archipelago (Palawan province) in the Philippines. Therefore in a very restricted geographic area, northern Palawan, Philippines, all three species co-occur. The goal of this study was to fill a knowledge gap about the ecology of Altrichthys, where very little is currently known. Using census and behavioral approaches at 14 sites on six islands, we were able to identify adult densities, nest densities, nesting habitat preference, and brood behavior and abundance. We found that densities were very high (more than 17 individuals/100 m2 for one species) and A. azurelineatus may be displacing A. curatus at deeper depths where habitat seems of higher quality. Only one out of 14 surveyed sites contained only one species, Altrichthys curatus. Different habitat use and feeding behavior suggest that niche partitioning may play an important role in the life history of these sympatric species.


Altrichthys azurelineatus Altrichthys curatus Acanthochromis polyacanthus Apelagic fishes 



We would like to thank Avigdor Abelson and Gustav Paulay for help in coral identification. We would like to thank Amalia Bernardi and Alessio Bernardi for help in the field, and the staff of Dive Link Resort, Uson Island, for logistical support. This study followed Animal Care protocols (UC CARC approval BERNG1601). This work was funded by a National Geographic Grant and a COR grant from UCSC to GB.


  1. Albertson RC (2008) Morphological divergence predicts habitat partitioning in a Lake Malawi cichlid species complex. Copeia 2008:689–698CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Allen GR (1999) Altrichthys, a new genus of damselfish (Pomacentridae) from Philippine seas with description of a new species. Rev Fr d’ Aquariol 26:23–28Google Scholar
  3. Barlow GW (1981) Patterns of parental investment, dispersal and size among coral-reef fishes. Environ Biol Fish 6:65–85CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bernardi G (2011) Monophyletic origin of brood care in damselfishes. Mol Phylogenet Evol 59:245–248CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  5. Buckley J, Maunder RJ, Foey A et al (2010) Biparental mucus feeding: a unique example of parental care in an Amazonian cichlid. J Exp Biol 213:3787–3795CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  6. Cooper WJ, Smith LL, Westneat MW (2009) Exploring the radiation of a diverse reef fish family: phylogenetics of the damselfishes (Pomacentridae), with new classifications based on molecular analyses of all genera. Mol Phylogenet Evol 52:1–16CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Doherty PJ, Planes S, Mather P (1995) Gene flow and larval duration in seven species of fish from the great barrier reef. Ecology 76:2373–2391CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Frédérich B, Parmentier E (2016) Biology of damselfishes. CRC Press, Boca RatonCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Jan RQ (1997) Sympatric spawning of the damselfishes Chromis fumea and Pomacentrus coelestis on the northern coast of Taiwan. Zool Stud 36:26–32Google Scholar
  10. Jan RQ (2000) Resource limitation underlying reproductive strategies of coral reef fishes: a hypothesis. Zool Stud 39:266–274Google Scholar
  11. Leis JM (1991) The pelagic stage of reef fishes. In: Sale P (ed) Ecol. Fishes coral reefs. Academic Press Inc., San Diego, CA, pp. 182–229Google Scholar
  12. Munday PL (2004) Competitive coexistence of coral-dwelling fishes: the lottery hypothesis revisited. Ecology 85:623–628CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Noakes DLG (1979) Parent-touching behavior by young fishes: incidence, function and causation. Environ Biol Fish 4:389–400CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Planes S, Doherty PJ, Bernardi G (2001) Strong genetic divergence among populations of a marine fish with limited dispersal, Acanthochromis polyacanthus, within the great barrier reef and the Coral Sea. Evolution (N Y) 55:2263–2273Google Scholar
  15. Ree RH, Smith SA (2008) Maximum likelihood inference of geographic range evolution by dispersal, local extinction, and cladogenesis. Syst Biol 57:4–14. doi: 10.1080/10635150701883881 CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  16. Robertson DR (1973) Field observations on the reproductive behaviour of a pomacentrid fish, Acanthochromis polyacanthus. Z Tierpsychol 32:319–324CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  17. Robertson DR, Lassig B (1980) Spatial distribution patterns and damselfishes from the great barrier reef. Bull Mar Sci 30:187–203Google Scholar
  18. Sale PF (1977) Maintenance of high diversity in coral reef fish communities. Am Nat 111:337–359CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Sale PF (1978) Coexistence of coral reef fishes - a lottery for living space. Environ Biol Fish 3:85–102CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Sale PF (1991) Reef fish communities: open nonequilibrial systems. In: Sale PF (ed) Ecol. Fishes coral reefs. Academic Press, New York, pp. 564–598CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Sale PF, Dybdahl R (1975) Determinants of community structure for coral reef fishes in an experimental habitat. Ecology 56:1343–1355CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Shpigel M, Fishelson L (1989) Habitat partitioning between species of the genus Cephalopholis (Pisces, Serranidae) across the fringing reef of the Gulf of Aqaba (Red Sea). Mar Ecol Prog Ser 58:17–22CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Taborsky M (1984) Broodcare helpers in the cichlid fish Lamprologus brichardi: their costs and benefits. Anim Behav 32:1236–1252CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Thresher RE (1985) Distribution, abundance, and reproductive success in the coral reef fish Acanthochromis polyacanthus. Ecology 1985:1139–1150CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Vagelli A (1999) The reproductive biology and early ontogeny of the mouthbrooding Banggai cardinalfish, Pterapogon kauderni (Perciformes, Apogonidae). Environ Biol Fish 56:79–92CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Vagelli A, Burford M, Bernardi G (2009) Fine scale dispersal in Banggai cardinalfish, Pterapogon kauderni, a coral reef species lacking a pelagic larval phase. Mar Genomics 1:129–134. doi: 10.1016/j.margen.2009.01.001 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. van Herwerden L, Doherty PJ (2006) Contrasting genetic structures across two hybrid zones of a tropical reef fish, Acanthochromis polyacanthus (Bleeker 1855). J Evol Biol 19:239–252. doi: 10.1111/j.1420-9101.2005.00969.x CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  28. Waldner RE, Robertson DR (1980) Patterns of habitat partitioning by eight species of territorial Caribbean damslefishes (Pisces: Pomacentridae). Bull Mar Sci 30:171–186Google Scholar
  29. Welsh SA, Perry SA (1998) Habitat partitioning in a community of darters in the Elk River, West Virginia. Environ Biol Fish 51:411–419CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Ecology and Evolutionary BiologyUniversity of California Santa CruzSanta CruzUSA
  2. 2.Department of BiologyCabrillo CollegeAptosUSA

Personalised recommendations