Diversity and functional importance of coral-feeding fishes on tropical coral reefs

Cole, Andrew J., Pratchett, Morgan S., and Jones, Geoffrey P. (2008) Diversity and functional importance of coral-feeding fishes on tropical coral reefs. Fish and Fisheries, 9. pp. 286-307.

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Abstract

Fishes that feed from live corals (corallivores) are a conspicuous component of healthy coral reef environments. However, knowledge of the occurrence and ecological significance of this feeding mode is fragmentary. Historically, very few fish were considered capable of feeding from live coral, and those few that did were considered ecologically insignificant. More recently, the role of corallivores has been re-evaluated; published records document 128 corallivorous fish species from 11 different families, with 69 of these belonging to the family Chaetodontidae. Other families, including the Labridae, Tetraodontidae, Balistidae, Monacanthidae, Poma-centridae and Scaridae, all have between seven and ten coral-feeding species. One-third of coral-feeding fishes feed almost exclusively on corals, with more than 80% of their diet based on coral. Corallivorous fish show distinct prey preferences and consume only a small subset of available corals, usually the genera Acropora, Pocillopora and Porites. This selective predation by corallivores can limit abundance and distribution of preferred corals. Chronic predation by corallivores may also exacerbate effects of coral disturbance (e.g. climate-induced coral bleaching), impeding reef recovery and causing further coral loss. Conversely, the cover of preferred corals can be a primary determinant of corallivore abundance and physiological condition. Owing to this close association, obligate corallivores invariably decline in response to loss of coral cover. Increased knowledge of the number of corallivores and their diets suggest that this feeding mode is more important to coral reef food webs than traditionally thought.

Item ID: 4873
Item Type: Article (Refereed Research - C1)
Keywords: biodiversity; corallivore; coral reef; feeding selectivity; functional group; trophic interaction
ISSN: 1467-2979
Date Deposited: 04 Aug 2009 01:53
FoR Codes: 06 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 0602 Ecology > 060205 Marine and Estuarine Ecology (incl Marine Ichthyology) @ 80%
05 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES > 0501 Ecological Applications > 050102 Ecosystem Function @ 20%
SEO Codes: 97 EXPANDING KNOWLEDGE > 970106 Expanding Knowledge in the Biological Sciences @ 100%
Citation Count from Web of Science Web of Science 2
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