Comparison of sampling methodologies and estimation of population parameters for a temporary fish ectoparasite

21 April 2017

Characterizing spatio-temporal variation in the density of organisms in a community is a crucial part of ecological study. However, doing so for small, motile, cryptic species presents multiple challenges, especially where multiple life history stages are involved. Gnathiid isopods are ecologically important marine ectoparasites, micropredators that live in substrate for most of their lives, emerging only once during each juvenile stage to feed on fish blood. Many gnathiid species are nocturnal and most have distinct substrate preferences. Studies of gnathiid use of habitat, exploitation of hosts, and population dynamics have used various trap designs to estimate rates of gnathiid emergence, study sensory ecology, and identify host susceptibility. In the studies reported here, we compare and contrast the performance of emergence, fish-baited and light trap designs, outline the key features of these traps, and determine some life cycle parameters derived from trap counts for the Eastern Caribbean coral-reef gnathiid, Gnathia marleyi. We also used counts from large emergence traps and light traps to estimate additional life cycle parameters, emergence rates, and total gnathiid density on substrate, and to calibrate the light trap design to provide estimates of rate of emergence and total gnathiid density in habitat not amenable to emergence trap deployment