Marine and Freshwater Research Marine and Freshwater Research Society
Advances in the aquatic sciences
RESEARCH ARTICLE

Demographic modelling of giant sea anemones: population stability and effects of mutualistic anemonefish in the Jordanian Red Sea

Austin K. Dixon A , Matthew J. McVay B and Nanette E. Chadwick B C
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A Department of Desert Ecology, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Midreshet Ben-Gurion, 8499000, Israel.

B Department of Biological Sciences, 101 Rouse Life Sciences Building, Auburn University, Auburn, AL 36849, USA.

C Corresponding author. Email: chadwick@auburn.edu

Marine and Freshwater Research - https://doi.org/10.1071/MF16361
Submitted: 26 October 2016  Accepted: 5 April 2017   Published online: 20 June 2017

Abstract

Giant sea anemones serve as important hosts for mutualistic anemonefish on Indo-Pacific coral reefs, but their population dynamics and turnover rates remain largely unknown. We used size-based demographic models to determine recruitment, changes in body size and mortality of bulb-tentacle anemones Entacmaea quadricolor and leathery anemones Heteractis crispa over 2 years on coral reefs in the northern Red Sea, Jordan. Individuals recruited at consistent rates and grew rapidly until they reached ~300-cm2 tentacle crown surface area, then mostly remained static or shrank. Mortality rate decreased with body size, and the retention of large individuals strongly influenced population size. Individuals of H. crispa were more dynamic than those of E. quadricolor, possibly due to their hosting significantly smaller anemonefish. Both populations were abundant and stable but dynamic in terms of individuals, with estimated turnover times of only ~5 and 3 years for E. quadricolor and H. crispa respectively. We conclude that some giant anemones may be short lived relative to their fish symbionts, and that stasis rates of large individuals disproportionately affect their populations. These results have implications for conservation management strategies of these major cnidarians on coral reefs, and indicate wide variation between species in the population-level effects of mutualistic interactions.

Additional keywords: coral reef, mutualism, population dynamics, recruitment, symbiosis.


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