Marine Biodiversity

, Volume 49, Issue 1, pp 345–355 | Cite as

Neustonic copepods (Labidocera spp.) discovered living residentially in coral reefs

  • Joy SmithEmail author
  • Claudio Richter
  • Katharina Fabricius
  • Astrid Cornils
Original Paper


Pontellid copepods are archetypical representatives of the neuston—the highly specialized community living in the top 5–10 cm of the ocean surface. Their deep blue pigmentation and large eyes are unique adaptations to surface irradiation and carnivory, but poor prerequisites for survival in the transparent waters beneath the sea surface. Here, we report the discovery of three reef-associated representatives of this group—Labidocera bataviae A. Scott, 1909; L. pavo Giesbrecht, 1889; and Labidocera sp.—living residential in coral reefs. We (1) document the presence of Labidocera spp. for two separate coral reefs on two expeditions to Papua New Guinea, (2) describe their migration behavior and substrate preference, and (3) quantify the effects of benthic reef community composition on their abundance. All life stages of Labidocera spp. were 43 to 94 times more abundant at the reef sites compared to offshore sites. Although pontellids are generally considered non-migrators, Labidocera spp. showed discernible diel vertical migrations: living in reef substrates during the day, emerging into the water column at night (sometimes more than once), and returning to the substrate at dawn. Labidocera spp. showed a pronounced substrate preference for coral rubble, microalgae, and turf, over branching coral, massive boulder coral, and sand.


Copepods Neustonic Residential Coral reef Pontellidae 



Special thanks to Obedi Daniel, Robin (‘Lei’) Luke, Julia Strahl, Sam Noonan, Alfred Sauwa, and crew members from the M/V Chertan for field assistance. This project was funded in part by the Erasmus Mundus-funded MARES Joint Doctoral Programme on Marine Ecosystem Health & Conservation (FPA 2011-0016), the Great Barrier Reef Foundation’s ‘Resilient Coral Reefs Successfully Adapting to Climate Change’ Program in collaboration with the Australian Government, the BIOACID Phase II Programme of the German Science Ministry BMBF (Grant 03F0655B), and the Australian Institute of Marine Science.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Senckenberg Gesellschaft für Naturforschung and Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Joy Smith
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
    Email author
  • Claudio Richter
    • 2
    • 3
  • Katharina Fabricius
    • 1
  • Astrid Cornils
    • 2
  1. 1.Australian Institute of Marine ScienceTownsvilleAustralia
  2. 2.Alfred Wegener Institute Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine ResearchBremerhavenGermany
  3. 3.University of BremenBremenGermany

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