Effects of Intertidal Elevation on the Rockpool Ichthyofaunas of Temperate Australia

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SynopsisA quantitative assessment of the effects of intertidal elevation on rockpool ichthyofaunas was investigated at four locations in southeastern New South Wales, Australia. Rockpools supported high diversity and abundance of fishes mainly comprising the families Clinidae, Blennidae, Tripterygiidae, Gobiidae, Gobiesocidae and Girellidae, which are mostly permanent residents. Mean numbers of species and individuals did not differ among low, medium and high rockpools. In contrast, species composition differed among intertidal rockpool heights with pools mainly being dominated by transient and opportunist species in lower intertidal, opportunists and permanent residents in the mid intertidal, and mainly permanent residents in the high intertidal. Distribution patterns appeared to be related to the morphological and/or physiological adaptations of species to the increasingly harsh and variable environmental conditions with increasing intertidal elevation. Residential status of each species may be used as a proxy for intertidal vertical distribution although some exceptions exist, namely Girella elevata, which may posses behavioural adaptations to cope with harsh environmental conditions.

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