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Discarded queen conch (Strombus gigas) shells as shelter sites for fish

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Shaun Wilson


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Within the Caribbean millions of queen conch (Strombus gigas Linnaeus) are harvested each year and shells discarded randomly or as middens. Fish use of discarded conch shells was investigated in four different habitat types: sand, seagrass beds, mangrove forests, and coral reefs. The study was carried out in the waters off South Caicos, Turks and Caicos Islands (TCI), between October 2003 and January 2004. The density of discarded shells was greatest near coral reefs; however, the percentage of shells occupied by adult fish was higher in isolated shells on sand and in mangrove habitats. Juvenile fish also showed a preference for sheltering in conch shells relative to other microhabitat types on sandy plains and in mangrove and seagrass habitats. Differences in use of single shells by fish in different habitats were attributed to differences in piscivore abundance and habitat complexity. Although not all isolated shells were occupied by fish, all conch middens deposited by fishermen had fish inhabitants. Examination of fish use of conch middens in three habitat types and conch piles of one, three, and five shells constructed on sand found both fish diversity and abundance increased on conch middens of increasing size. This study suggests that disposal of conch shells as large middens in habitats of low complexity will increase the amount of shelter present and may enhance fish populations in these habitats. © Springer-Verlag 2005.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Wilson SK, Street S, Sato T

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Marine Biology

Year: 2005

Volume: 147

Issue: 1

Pages: 179-188

ISSN (print): 0025-3162

ISSN (electronic): 1432-1793

Publisher: Springer


DOI: 10.1007/s00227-005-1556-2


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