Habitat selection and aggression as determinants of spatial segregation among damselfish on a coral reef

Bay, L.K., Jones, G.P., and McCormick, M.I. (2001) Habitat selection and aggression as determinants of spatial segregation among damselfish on a coral reef. Coral Reefs, 20 (3). pp. 289-298.

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Abstract

Adults of many closely related coral reef fish species are segregated along gradients of depth or habitat structure. Both habitat selection by new settlers and subsequent competitive interactions can potentially produce such patterns, but their relative importance is unclear. This study examines the potential roles of habitat selection and aggression in determining the spatial distribution of adults and juveniles of four highly aggressive damselfishes at Lizard Island, northern Great Barrier Reef. Dischistodus perspicillatus, D. prosopotaenia, D. melanotus, and D. pseudochrysopoecilus maintain almost non-overlapping distributions across reef zones, with adults of one species dominating each reef zone. Juveniles exhibit slightly broader distributional patterns suggesting that subsequent interactions reduce overlap among species. Although habitat choice experiments in aquaria suggest that associations between juveniles and substrata types in the field are partly due to habitat selection, large overlaps in the use of substrata by the different species were also found, suggesting that substratum selection alone is insufficient in explaining the discrete spatial distributions of adults. The strength of aggressive interactions among all four species was tested by a "bottle" experiment, in which an adult or juvenile of each species was placed in the territories of adult fish on the reef. The greatest levels of interspecific aggression were directed against adults and juveniles of neighbouring species. The highest levels of aggression were associated with species exhibiting the greatest levels of overlap in resource use. Evidently both habitat selection and interspecific aggression combine to determine the adult distributions of these species.

Item ID: 1454
Item Type: Article (Refereed Research - C1)
Keywords: aggression, habitat selection, distribution, interspecific competition, coral reef fish, Dischistodus perspicillatus, D. prosopotaenia, D. melanotus, D. pseudochrysopoecilus
ISSN: 1432-0975
Date Deposited: 31 May 2007
FoR Codes: 06 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 0602 Ecology > 060205 Marine and Estuarine Ecology (incl Marine Ichthyology) @ 100%
SEO Codes: 96 ENVIRONMENT > 9608 Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity > 960802 Coastal and Estuarine Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity @ 100%
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