Testing for camouflage of the Brazilian seahorse Hippocampus reidi (Syngnathidae) using the territorial damselfish Stegastes fuscus (Cuvier) (Pomacentridae)

Leonardo de Oliveira Armesto and Natalie Villar Freret-Meurer

aqua, International Journal of Ichthyology, pp. 165-170, Volume 18, Issue 3 – 15 July 2012

Seahorses present many characteristics such as variable colour, skin fronds and sedentary behaviour that provide camouflage as a defense mechanism. This study aims to test seahorse camouflage effectiveness in relation to a territorial species. Seahorses were translocated into the territory of the damselfish Stegastes fuscus (Cuvier) and its aggressive behaviour was recorded. Stegastes fuscus was chosen as being a good model of an aggressive fish, probably able to detect any transgressor. Seahorse size, sex, colour and mobility were recorded, as was the colour of the substrate used as holdfast. Eighty-four percent of the translocated seahorses were not attacked. There was no relation between number of attacks and size, sex or colour of seahorse and its holdfast. Seahorses that remained still during the experiment (84%) were not attacked, but those that moved were attacked (16%). It was observed in this study that neither seahorse color nor size were relevant characters in camouflage fitness, but probably all these together, including behavior, improved survival fitness.

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