hdr_home (36K)
  HOME COLLECTION EDUCATION IMAGE GALLERY SOUTH FLORIDA ORGANIZATIONS MEETINGS STAFF
  SHARK FRESHWATER
RESEARCH
BIOLOGICAL
PROFILES
JUST FOR KIDS SITE LINKS FLMNH

South Florida Aquatic Environments

Seagrasses




LIFE IN THE SEAGRASSES

Permit Swimming Over Seagrass Meadow
courtesy Heather Dine, NOAA
Seagrass Scene-NOAA


Seagrass life:

Fishes

Seagrass beds provide nursery areas and feeding grounds for many species of fish, including those of commercial and sportfishing value. These habitats are also the home to many resident species.

Seahorse
© Keri Wilk
Seahorse

Year-round residents are typically small in size and cryptic. The emerald clingfish (Acyrtops beryllina) is a tiny epiphytic fish only found associated with turtle grass. Common year-round resident fish of south Florida seagrass habitats include the pipefishes (Syngnatus spp.), seahorses (Hippocampus spp.), and the inshore lizardfish (Synodus foetens). Parrotfish (Sparisoma spp.) reside in the clear waters of the Florida Keys, feeding directly on blades of seagrass. Sharptail eels (Myrichthys breviceps) and young moray eels (Gymnothorax spp.) forage in seagrass beds for mollusks and other prey.


Blue-striped Grunt
© David Snyder
Blue-striped Grunt

Seasonal residents are fishes that spend part of their life cycle in seagrass beds, mainly as a nursery area for spawning and/or juvenile development. The spotted seatrout (Cynoscion nebulosus) and silver perch (Bairdiella chrysura) are among seasonal residents that are common as juveniles in seagrasses. Other seasonal species include pigfish (Orthopristis chrysoptera), blue-striped grunt (Haemulon scirus), French grunt (H. flavolineatum), ceasar grunt (H. carbonarium) and the tomtate (H. aurolineatum).

Doctorfish
© Luiz Rocha
Doctorfish

Coral reef fishes often utilize seagrasses as nurseries. Juveniles of the ocean surgeonfish (Acanthurus bahianus) and the doctorfish (A. chirurgus) are commonly observed residing among seagrasses. The spotted goatfish (Pseudupeneus maculatus), yellow goatfish (Mulloidicthys martinicus), gag grouper (Mycteroperca microlepis), gray snapper (Lutjanus griseus), spotted seatrout (Cynoscion nebulosus), and southern flounder (Paralichthys lethostigma) also occur as juveniles in seagrass habitats. The bucktooth parrotfish (Sparisoma radians), redtail parrotfish (S. chrysopterum) and the emerald parrotfish (Nicholsina usta) all reside in seagrass beds as juveniles as well as immature adults.

Dog Snapper
© Bob Klemow
Dog Snapper - Klemow

A commercially valuable group of fishes, the snappers, are common throughout south Florida’s seagrass habitats. These include the gray snapper (Lutjanus griseus), lane snapper (L. synagris), schoolmaster (L. apodus), mutton snapper (L. analis), dog snapper (L. jocu), and yellowtail snapper (Ocyurus chrysurus).

White grunts (Haemulon plumeri) are abundant in the turtle grass beds of south Florida, while other grunts such as the porkfish (Anisotremus virginicus) rarely occur in these habitats. Other species of grunts are present as juveniles in these waters.

Stingray
© Don DeMaria
Seagrass Ray-NOAA

Seagrass beds of south Florida include large numbers of reef fishes when the beds are adjacent to coral reefs. Fishes find shelter on the reef during the day, moving to seagrass beds at night to forage. Grunts and gray snappers (Lutjanus griseus) live diurnally on the reefs and feed nocturnally over seagrasses. Other nocturnal visitors include hardhead catfish (Arius felis), fantail mullet (Mugil gyrans), Atlantic thread herring (Opisthonema oglinum), scaled sardine (Harengula jaguana), silver perch (Bairdiella chrysura), and ladyfish (Elops sarus). On the other hand, species occurring over seagrasses only during the day include jenny mojarra (Eucinostomus gula), pinfish (Lagodon rhomboides), and flathead mullet (Mugil cephalus). Offshore migrants such as nurse sharks (Ginglymostoma cirratum), smalltooth sawfishes (Pristis pectinata), southern stingrays (Dasyatis americana), and Atlantic stingrays (Dasyatis sabina) visit seagrass habitats in search of prey.

Nurse Shark
© Tobey Curtis
Nurse Shark