Mesophotic coral ecosystems (MCEs) represent the lowest depth distribution inhabited by many coral reefassociated organisms. Research on fishes associated with MCEs is sparse, leading to a critical lack of knowledge of how reef fish found at mesophotic depths may vary from their shallow reef conspecifics. We investigated intraspecific variability in body condition and growth of three Hawaiian endemics collected from shallow, photic reefs (5–33 m deep) and MCEs (40–75 m) throughout the Hawaiian Archipelago and Johnston Atoll: the detritivorous goldring surgeonfish, Ctenochaetus strigosus, and the planktivorous threespot chromis, Chromis verater, and Hawaiian dascyllus, Dascyllus albisella. Estimates of body condition and size-at-age varied between shallow and mesophotic depths; however, these demographic differences were outweighed by the magnitude of variability found across the latitudinal gradient of locations sampled within the Central Pacific. Body condition and maximum body size were lowest in samples collected from shallow and mesophotic Johnston Atoll sites, with no difference occurring between depths. Samples from the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands tended to have the highest body condition and reached the largest body sizes, with differences between shallow and mesophotic sites highly variable among species. The findings of this study support newly emerging research demonstrating intraspecific variability in the life history of coral-reef fish species whose distributions span shallow and mesophotic reefs. This suggests not only that the conservation and fisheries management should take into consideration differences in the life histories of reef-fish populations across spatial scales, but also that information derived from studies of shallow fishes be applied with caution to conspecific populations in mesophotic coral environments.
USA - Hawaii