Habitat use by demersal nekton on the continental shelf in the Benguela ecosystem, southern Africa


Gibbons, Mark J., Andre J. J. Goosen, and Patti A. Wickens
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Videotapes collected by the research submersible Jago in the Benguela ecosystem during spring 1997 were analyzed to determine demersal nekton assemblage composition, fish behavior, and microscale habitat association, and habitat selection. Demersal fish assemblage diversity was generally low, and their composition was a function of substratum type. Individual species showed an often marked association with either rocky or soft substrata (or both), and a strong or weak selection for the associated biota. Soles and dragonets actively selected areas of bioactive soft substrata, to which they are behaviorally and morphologically adapted. False jacopever were associated with crevices in areas of high-relief rocky substrata. Kingklip are piscivorous and were largely confined to holes at the base of rocks and favored areas without a conspicuous epifauna. Juvenile hake and gobies avoided extremely rocky areas and were largely indifferent to the presence of benthic invertebrates—behavior that is consistent with their planktonic diets. These results represent the first direct observations of demersal nekton in the region and are important because they allow better interpretations of the results of trawl studies.