A holistic investigation of the ecological correlates of abundance and body size for the endangered White's seahorse Hippocampus whitei

Publication Type: Journal Article

Year of Publication: 2018

Authors:  Manning,C. G. , S. J. Foster, D. Harasti & A. C. J. Vincent

Journal:  Journal of Fish Biology

Abstract

Analysing the associations between the endangered White's seahorse Hippocampus whitei and characteristics of its environment (including habitat, prey and predator variables) in an estuary in New South Wales, Australia, revealed that seahorses had a greater number of significant associations with environmental correlates within a single seagrass bed than among seagrass beds. Predator abundance was negatively correlated with H. whitei abundances among seven seagrass beds (200–6000 m apart) and no ecological correlate was associated with H. whitei body size distributions. Within the seagrass bed with the greatest number of H. whitei , individuals preferentially selected locations that were deeper, had denser seagrass, more epiphytic prey types and fewer predators. Smaller H. whitei were associated with greater depths within the bed. In this study, each class of ecological correlate (habitat, prey, predators) was found to have at least one significant relationship with H. whitei , depending on the scale, demonstrating that all three are important to H. whitei populations. As such, future studies that evaluate animal populations may benefit from holistic approaches that consider each of these together. For animals that are experiencing dramatic population declines due to habitat destruction, as H. whitei has over the last decade, a better understanding of its relationship to its environment is important to inform conservation action.

URL: https://doi.org/10.1111/jfb.13745