Distribution patterns of the invasive herbivore Siganus luridus (Rüppell, 1829) and its relation to native benthic communities in the central Aegean Sea, Northeastern Mediterranean.
The present study explores the distribution of the invasive herbivore fish Siganus luridus (Rüppell 1829) and its relationship to native herbivores and macroalgal assemblages in the shallow sublittoral of the Cyclades Archipelago, Aegean Sea, Greece. In situ underwater surveys of herbivore abundance (fishes and sea urchins) and algal coverage were carried out at 180 sampling sites in 18 islands. Siganus luridus accounted for 17% of the total herbivore abundance, with a decrease in relative abundance from the southeastern to the northwestern islands. In Santorini Island (in the southeast of the study area) S. luridus abundance accounted for 90% of the total herbivore fish abundance, while in Kea Island (at the northwestern limit of the study area), S. luridus was absent. The spatial variation of minimum sea surface temperature is possibly the reason for its distributional pattern. Siganus luridus abundance was found to be positively correlated to the native herbivore Sparisoma cretense (Linnaeus 1758). A significant negative relationship was found between the abundance of the invasive species and the sum of erect and canopy algae cover (Dictyotales and Cystoseira spp.), which are the main components of its diet in the region. On the other hand, its occurrence was particularly high in barren sites. The results arising from this study reinforce evidence from studies in the Eastern Mediterranean Basin that the expansion of the invasive species S. luridus may have profound impacts on native communities in the Mediterranean infralittoral zone.