The Behavior of Heterotypic Resting Schools of Juvenile Grunts (Pomadasyidae)

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Deep Water, Patch Reef, Release Experiment, Large Formation, Virgin Island

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Resting schools of juvenile grunts (less than 12 cm length), composed primarily of Haemulon flavolineatum and H. plumieri, were studied from 1972 to 1976 on a series of patch reefs surrounded by seagrass beds on the northeast coast of St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands. Juvenile grunts form large inactive multispecies schools in reef areas by day. Repeated censuses over several years reveal that certain parts of the reef, particularly those with large formations of the corals Porites porites and Acropora palmata, are traditional schooling areas. When the fishes reach a size of about 15 cm, the H. plumieri form homotypic schools which roam the patch reefs but are no longer associated with particular formations of coral. In contrast, larger H. flavolineatum are uncommon on the patch reefs and they may move offshore to deeper water. The schools of juvenile grunts migrate some distance away (often 100 to 300 m) into seagrass-covered areas to feed on invertebrates at dusk each day. The routes which are followed into the seagrass beds are precise and persist over years. At dawn the grunts return to the reef on the same routes. Mass marking and release experiments show that juvenile grunts will move over long distances (approximately 3 km) to reach a home reef.

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Marine Biology, v. 42, issue 3, p. 273-280