Patterns of fish distribution in tropical rock pools at Príncipe Island, Gulf of Guinea
Little is known about the ichthyofauna from intertidal rock pools of the west coast of Africa, especially in the Gulf of Guinea. Rock pools are characteristic habitats of the intertidal zone of structurally complex rocky shores, adding important niche space to coastal fish species. In this study, rock pools of three similar rocky shores of Príncipe Island were sampled to describe the composition, abundance and distribution of fish assemblages and their relation to parameters of pool structure (volume, depth), water mass (temperature, salinity and pH) and biology (algal and coral cover, and biological species richness). A total of 18 fish species and one leptocephalus larva of unknown species, representing 13 families, were observed during sampling. In decreasing order, the five-most-abundant species were the goby Bathygobius burtoni, night sergeant Abudefduf taurus, West African rockhopper Entomacrodus cadenati, sailfin blenny Microlipophrys velifer and Biafra doctorfish Prionurus biafraensis, which together represented 81% of the total number of fish recorded during this study. The four-most-abundant species also proved to be the better adapted to the range of conditions found in rock pools. Overall, larger rock pools with minimal biological cover and higher salinity were found to support higher fish abundance and species richness. Most species individually preferred rock pools with larger volumes, but some presented a degree of habitat specificity, such as the absence or presence of biological cover. Species that were more-active swimmers preferred deeper pools.