Date of Award
Bachelor of Science (BS)
College of Science
Temperate oyster reef blennies use oyster shells that are still articulated as habitat year round. During the breeding season when water temperatures are > 18-20°C, many species of blenny males use the oyster valves as nesting sites. Male blennies exhibit territorial behavior when guarding their nesting sites and can interact differently with conspecific and transient species. Striped blenny (Chasmodes bosquianus) and freckled blenny (Hypsoblennius ionthas) behavior was described from April 2020 to August 2020 at Oyster Landing, North Inlet estuary, South Carolina to quantify typical blenny behavior, general presence or absence of residents, and potential environmental parameters that could be affecting their behavior. Nesting sites made from PVC pipes were monitored during daylight hours with underwater video cameras. Transient species seen at the nest sites included blue crab, sheepshead, green sea turtles, and oyster toadfish. Striped blenny nest shelters were usually occupied for 60-70% of each day. Video analysis showed that the resident male striped blenny preferred the largest nesting site (2.5 cm.) and was present for 93% of days observed, whereas the resident freckled blenny preferred the smallest nesting site (1.3 cm.) and was present for 34% of days observed (n = 41 days). Warmer temperatures and higher turbidity were related to declines in fish shelter use. The larger striped blenny male exhibited the courtship and aggression behavior more than the smaller freckled blenny, but the most common behavior seen for both species was peeking or peeking-deep meaning that the fish stayed at the mouth or in the tube to observe their surroundings. The male striped blenny did not exhibit extreme territorial behaviors even though his shelter was within 8 cm of another occupied shelter. This unexpected result is likely due to a lack of available nesting sites in the immediate area caused by recent storm-related burial of local surficial shell. Temperate oyster reefs provide heterogeneous habitats that have the potential for many social and non-social interactions between both conspecifics and transient species.
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Davis, Sydney and Harding, Juliana, "Blenny Territoriality at Oyster Landing, North Inlet Estuary, South Carolina: Seasonal patterns and ecological factors" (2020). Honors Theses. 398.
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