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Abstract

Spirobranchus giganteus, a vibrantly colored polychaete, exhibits a commensalistic relationship with the coral substrate on which it burrows. To determine the coral preference of S. giganteus, we studied the distribution of individuals on corals at two sites in the Belizean Barrier Reef, and also examined color morph distribution of these polychaetes on corals. We found that S. giganteus significantly prefers corals in the genus Diplora. There was no significant difference in color morph distribution across coral genera, but site-specific effects were observed. Variation in color within S. giganteus populations is likely more dependent on geographic location and less on coral substrate. The association of S. giganteus with Diplora may cause populations of the polychaete to decline in Caribbean reefs where Diplora is threatened.

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