Organizers: Simon Brandl1, Jordan Casey2, Darren Coker3, Kevin Conway4, Martial Depczynski5, Christopher Goatley6 & Luke Tornabene2

Affiliations: 1/ Tennenbaum Marine Observatories Network, Smithsonian Environmental Research Center, 2/ National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, USA, 3/ Red Sea Research Centre, King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, 4/ Dept. of Wildlife and Fisheries Sciences, Texas A&M University, USA; 5/ Australian Institute of Marine Science, Australia; 6/ College of Science and Engineering, James Cook University, Australia.

Email: brandls@si.edu; caseyj@si.edu; darren.coker@kaust.edu.sa; kevin.conway@tamu.edu; M.Depczynski@aims.gov.au; christopher.goatley@my.jcu.edu.au; tornabenelm@si.edu

Lead contact: Simon Brandl

Description: The proposed session will focus on the biodiversity of cryptobenthic fishes (i.e. small, cryptic fishes that associate closely with the benthos), covering a broad swath of topics concerning life history, taxonomy, phylogenetic relationships, ecological roles, and behaviors of cryptobenthic fishes. Although frequently overlooked, these fishes numerically dominate vertebrate assemblages in many shallow-water environments (including marine and freshwater systems) and form the basis of food webs in highly productive systems such as tropical coral reefs. Due to the inconspicuous nature of cryptobenthic fishes, our understanding of their biology is still poor, and new species are still being described with surprising frequency. Therefore, the goal of this session is to foster the exchange of knowledge about cryptobenthic fishes, including: a) demographic parameters, b) taxonomy, phylogenetic relationships, and biogeographic patterns, c) the role of cryptobenthic fish communities in ecosystems, d) their behavior and social organization, and d) field- and laboratory-based techniques that can facilitate the monitoring and investigation of cryptobenthic fishes.

Expected Audience: We anticipate a large, inter-disciplinary group of contributors to this session. Consequently, the session is likely to attract audiences with varying fields of expertise, connected by a strong interest in cryptobenthic fishes. While we anticipate the majority of talks to originate from tropical coastal ecosystems (where the diversity of cryptobenthic fishes is highest), cryptobenthic fishes range from freshwater streams to shallow, temperate tidal pools and deep, mesophotic coral reef ecosystems. Therefore, this session promises to draw interest from researchers working on a variety of different systems and in various geographic regions. The organizers of this session combine expertise in field-based ecology and sampling techniques with experience in taxonomy and phylogenetics. We envision this session to serve as a springboard for future research efforts that will enable us to better understand cryptobenthic fish communities across the globe.