Chronic coral consumption by butterflyfishes

Cole, A.J., Lawton, R.J., Pratchett, M.S., and Wilson, S.K. (2011) Chronic coral consumption by butterflyfishes. Coral Reefs, 30 (1). pp. 85-93.

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Interactions between predators and prey organisms are of fundamental importance to ecological communities. While the ecological impact that grazing predators can have in terrestrial and temperate marine systems are well established, the importance of coral grazers on tropical reefs has rarely been considered. In this study we estimate the biomass of coral tissue consumed by four prominent species of corallivorous butterflyfishes. Sub-adult butterflyfishes (60-70mm, 6-11g) remove between 0.6 and 0.9g of live coral tissue per day, while larger adults (>110mm, ~40-50g) remove between 1.5 and 3g of coral tissue each day. These individual consumption rates correspond to the population of coral-feeding butterflyfishes at three exposed reef crest habitats at Lizard Island, Great Barrier Reef consuming between 14.6g (±2.0) and 19.6g (±3.9) of coral tissue. When standardised to the biomass of butterflyfishes present, a combined reef wide removal rate of 4.2g (±1.2) of coral tissue is consumed per of coral-feeding butterflyfishes. The quantity of coral tissue removed by these predators is considerably larger than previously expected and indicates that coral-grazers are likely to play an important role in the transfer of energy fixed by corals to higher consumers. Chronic coral consumption by butterflyfishes is expected to exact a large energetic cost upon prey corals and contribute to an increased rate of coral loss on reefs already threatened by anthropogenic pressure and ongoing climate change.

Item ID: 15597
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1432-0975
Keywords: corallivore, coral predation, functional importance, chaetodontidae, partial mortality, trophic link
Date Deposited: 07 Jun 2011 06:46
FoR Codes: 06 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 0602 Ecology > 060202 Community Ecology (excl Invasive Species Ecology) @ 100%
SEO Codes: 96 ENVIRONMENT > 9605 Ecosystem Assessment and Management > 960506 Ecosystem Assessment and Management of Fresh, Ground and Surface Water Environments @ 100%
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