Date of Award

5-2014

Degree Type

Masters Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Department

Coastal Sciences, Gulf Coast Research Laboratory

Committee Chair

Mark Peterson

Committee Chair Department

Coastal Sciences, Gulf Coast Research Laboratory

Committee Member 2

Chet Rakocinski

Committee Member 2 Department

Coastal Sciences, Gulf Coast Research Laboratory

Committee Member 3

Paul Mickle

Committee Member 3 Department

Coastal Sciences, Gulf Coast Research Laboratory

Abstract

Relationships of various structural features between reefs and their developing benthic and fish communities have an immense biological and ecological importance for reef restoration and rehabilitation. Therefore, objectives of this study were to establish how abundance (CPUE) and diet composition (%IRI) changes seasonally within Spotted Seatrout, Cynoscion nebulosus, and Sand Seatrout, Cynoscion arenarius, to view which trophic levels are interacting in relation to different reef type (high relief profile vs. low profile relief). A Kruskal-Wallis one-way ANOVA was performed on non-normal abundance data and determined no significant differences for reef type and season for both piscivorous species. Both Cynoscion spp. had relatively similar mean ranked CPUE across reef type and season suggesting their transient ubiquitous distribution may be influenced by prey availability rather than reef profile. Diet composition was analyzed by a PERMANOVA, HMD, MDS, and SIMPER analysis. Between the main terms, only season was significant for both species while the interaction was only significant for Spotted Seatrout. Various fishes and crustaceans were the main prey taxa in both species suggest that both species are opportunistic foragers where gap limitations on available prey may be the only restriction on diet. Prey availability most likely was driven from seasonal changes within the Mississippi Sound and further studies must include prey density in relation to diet composition for each species.

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