Diel patterns in sea urchin activity and predation on sea urchins on the Great Barrier Reef

Young, M.A.L., and Bellwood, D.R. (2011) Diel patterns in sea urchin activity and predation on sea urchins on the Great Barrier Reef. Coral Reefs, 30 (3). pp. 729-736.

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Understanding diel patterns in sea urchin activity is important when assessing sea urchin populations and when interpreting their interactions with predators. Here we employ a combination of surveys and a non-invasive tethering technique to examine these patterns in an intact coral reef system on the Great Barrier Reef (GBR). We also assess local scale variation in relative diurnal predation pressure. Surveys revealed that sea urchins were active and exposed at night. Echinometra mathaei and Echinothrix calamaris were the most abundant species with significantly higher night densities (0.21 and 0.03 ind. m−2, respectively), than daytime densities (0.05 and 0.001, respectively). Bioassays revealed that exposed adult E. mathaei (the most abundant sea urchin species) were 30.8 times more likely to be eaten during the day than at night when controlling for sites. This observation concurs with widely held assumptions that nocturnal activity is a risk-related adaptive response to diurnal predation pressure. Despite relatively intact predator communities on the GBR, potential predation pressure on diurnally exposed E. mathaei assays was variable at a local scale and the biomass of potential fish predators at each site was a poor predictive measure of this variation. Patterns in predation appear to be more complex and variable than we may have assumed.

Item ID: 18821
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1432-0975
Keywords: coral reefs, sea urchin, predation, Echinometra mathaei, tethering, ecosystem function
Date Deposited: 29 Sep 2011 04:28
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 > 960808 Marine Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity @ 100%
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