In situ observations of fish associated with coral reefs off Ireland
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The abundance and behaviour of fish on and around coral reefs at Twin Mounds and Giant Mounds, carbonate mounds located on the continental shelf off Ireland (600-1100. m), were studied using two Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) dives. We recorded 30 fish taxa on the dives, together with three species of Scleractinia (Lophelia pertusa, Madrepora oculata and Desmophyllum cristagalli) and a diverse range of other corals (Antipatharia, Alcyonacea, and Stylasteridae). Stands of live coral provided the only habitat in which Guttigadus latifrons was observed whereas Neocyttus helgae was found predominantly on structural habitats provided by dead coral. Significantly more fish were found on structurally complex coral rubble habitats than on flatter areas where coral rubble was clogged with sand. The most common species recorded was Lepidion eques (2136 individuals), which always occurred a few cm above bottom and was significantly more active on the reefs than on sedimentary habitats. Synaphobranchus kaupii (1157 indiv.). , N. helgae (198 indiv.) and Micromesistius poutassou (116 indiv.) were also common; S. kaupii did not exhibit habitat-related differences in behaviour, whilst N. helgae was more active over the reefs and other structured habitats whereas M. poutassou was more active with decreasing habitat complexity. Trawl damage and abandoned fishing gear was observed at both sites. We conclude that Irish coral reefs provide complex habitats that are home to a diverse assemblage of fish utilising the range of niches occurring both above and within the reef structure. © 2011 Elsevier Ltd.
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