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Rock pools can be found in inter-tidal marine environments worldwide; however, there have been few studies exploring what drives their, fish species composition, especially in Australia. The rock-pool environment is highly dynamic and offers a unique natural laboratory to study the habitat choices, physiological limitations and adaptations of inter-tidal fish species. In this study rock pools of the Sydney region were sampled to determine how the physical (volume, depth, rock cover and vertical position) and biological (algal cover and predator presence) parameters of pools influence fish distribution and abundance. A total of 27 fish species representing 14 families was observed in tide pools at the four study locations. The five most abundant species were Bathygobius cocosensis, Centropogon australis, Enneapterygius atrogulare, Lepidoblennius haplodactylus and Microcanthus strigatus, which together represented 71% of the total number of fish recorded. Larger rock pools containing more algal and rock ledge cover hosted a larger and more diverse population of fish. Furthermore, certain species were only found in pools with specific characteristics, such as the presence of loose shells, a variety algae or rock cover, suggesting a high degree of habitat specificity. By contrast, some species were ubiquitous and thus can likely tolerate a wide variety of physical conditions.


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