How far do schools of roving herbivores rove? A case study using Scarus rivulatus

Welsh, J.Q., and Bellwood, D.R. (2012) How far do schools of roving herbivores rove? A case study using Scarus rivulatus. Coral Reefs, 31 (4). pp. 991-1003.

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Abstract

Herbivorous reef fish play an important role in shaping ecosystem processes on coral reefs. Often found in schools, Scarus rivulatus, is an abundant herbivorous species on the Great Barrier Reef (GBR), Australia, especially on inshore reefs. Recent evidence has highlighted the limited spatial movements of some herbivorous fishes. However, individuals in schools are thought to be much more mobile. The aim of this study, therefore, was to evaluate the spatial range of schooling S. rivulatus to measure the spatial scale over which they exert their functional role. Furthermore, we assess the influence of the schooling behaviour on their feeding rates and thus their ecological impact. The diurnal movements of S. rivulatus were monitored using acoustic transmitters and a passive acoustic array for up to 7 months in Pioneer Bay, Orpheus Island, GBR. In addition, behavioural observations recorded school size-frequency distributions and feeding rates of S. rivulatus inside and outside foraging schools. Despite schooling, all S. rivulatus were site attached. On average, the maximum potential home range of individuals was 24,440 m² and ranges overlapped extensively in individuals captured from the same school. School size was highly variable, with a mean school size of 5.7 individuals. Schooling had a significant impact on the functional role of individuals, with feeding rates in schools being two times higher for S. rivulatus and over three times higher for other scarid species. Our results suggest that, despite schooling, individual S. rivulatus only rove over a limited area of reef (occupying a linear stretch of reef, measuring only approximately 250 m for individuals and 220 m for entire schools). Each individual may therefore have little impact on the spatial resilience of coral reefs.

Item ID: 24646
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1432-0975
Keywords: home range, ecosystem function, coral reefs, spatial resilience, schooling, herbivory
Date Deposited: 22 Jan 2013 05:13
FoR Codes: 05 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES > 0501 Ecological Applications > 050102 Ecosystem Function @ 50%
06 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 0602 Ecology > 060205 Marine and Estuarine Ecology (incl Marine Ichthyology) @ 50%
SEO Codes: 96 ENVIRONMENT > 9608 Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity > 960808 Marine Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity @ 100%
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