Environmental Factors Influencing Reproduction in a Temperate Marine Reef Goby, Rhinogobiops nicholsii, and Associated Behaviors
Schram, Michael J.
Steele, Mark A.
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The blackeye goby is a protogynous reef fish common to the northeastern Pacific Ocean. While this ubiquitous species has been the focus of numerous studies, there are several aspects of its reproductive ecology that are unknown. By directly quantifying reproduction from digital photographs of blackeye goby nests in the field, this study aimed to determine whether reproductive patterns were linked to 1) lunar phase or 2) ambient water temperature; and 3) whether the behavior of gobies changed when a nearby conspecific had eggs in his nest. At Santa Catalina Island, California, twenty 2.25-m<sup>2</sup> artificial reefs were established and stocked with similar numbers and size-distributions of blackeye gobies during the summers of 2012 and 2013. Photographs of nests were taken weekly for ~3 months each summer. Through analysis of photographs, incubation time was found to be more than 7 days but less than 14 days. Nests, each guarded by one male, contained an average of 8664 eggs, in an area of 43.8 cm<sup>2</sup>, with 215 eggs cm<sup>-2</sup>. Blackeye gobies laid eggs during all lunar phases and the number of eggs produced was not related to lunar phase. Reproductive output, however, was negatively correlated with water temperature, with populations on reefs that experienced cooler temperatures producing more eggs. The presence of eggs in a nest had little effect on behavior of blackeye gobies on that reef. Additional observations made outside of summer months indicated that blackeye gobies can reproduce year-round in southern California. These results suggest a reproductive strategy aimed at maximizing total reproductive output by spreading the risk of reproductive failure throughout the year rather than optimizing the timing of reproduction.