TALLAHASSEE, Fla., Jan. 20 (UPI) — Red groupers act as architect and engineer in creating habitats for commercially important species in the Gulf of Mexico, marine biologists said.
While snorkelers and recreational divers may think the groupers sluggish, scientists at Florida State University say they’re hard workers who excavate and maintain crevices that provide critical habitat for spiny lobsters and other species.
The groupers laboriously remove sand from the ocean floor to expose hard rock needed for the propagation of corals and sponges and the animals they shelter, said Felicia Coleman, head of Florida State’s Coastal and Marine Laboratory.
The excavation sites, which can measure 16-feet across, attract prey species for the grouper’s diet and other beneficial species such as cleaner shrimp that pick parasites off the groupers.
“So it is no surprise that (groupers) are remarkably sedentary,” Coleman said. “Why move if you are clever enough to make everything you need come to you?”
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