Date of this Version
Bulletin of Marine Science, Volume 81, Supplement 1, November 2007, pp.
The demersal fish fauna of Lophelia pertusa (Linnaeus, 1758) coral reefs and associated hard-bottom biotopes was investigated at two depth horizons in the northern Gulf of Mexico using a manned submersible and remote sampling. The Viosca Knoll fauna consisted of at least 53 demersal fish species, 37 of which were documented by submersible video. On the 325 m horizon, dominant taxa determined from frame-by-frame video analysis included Stromateidae, Serranidae, Trachichthyidae, Congridae, Scorpaenidae, and Gadiformes. On the 500 m horizon, large mobile visual macrocarnivores of families Stromateidae and Serranidae dropped out, while a zeiform microcarnivore assumed importance on reef “Thicket” biotope, and the open-slope taxa Macrouridae and Squalidae gained in importance. The most consistent faunal groups at both depths included sit-and-wait and hover-and-wait strategists (Scorpaenidae, Congridae, Trachichthyidae), along with generalized mesocarnivores (Gadiformes). The specialized microcarnivore, Grammicolepis brachiusculus Poey, 1873, appears to be highly associated with Lophelia reefs. The coral “Thicket” biotope was extensively developed on the 500 m site, but fish abundance was low with only 95 fish per hectare. In contrast to Lophelia reefs from the eastern the North Atlantic, the coral “Rubble” biotope was essentially absent. This study represents the first quantitative analysis of fishes associated with Lophelia reefs in the Gulf of Mexico, and generally in the western North Atlantic.