Local extinction of a coral reef fish explained by inflexible prey choice

Brooker, R.M., Munday, P.L., Brandl, S.J., and Jones, G.P. (2014) Local extinction of a coral reef fish explained by inflexible prey choice. Coral Reefs, 33 (4). pp. 891-896.

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While global extinctions of marine species are infrequent, local extinctions are becoming common. However, the role of habitat degradation and resource specialisation in explaining local extinction is unknown. On coral reefs, coral bleaching is an increasingly frequent cause of coral mortality that can result in dramatic changes to coral community composition. Coral-associated fishes are often specialised on a limited suite of coral species and are therefore sensitive to these changes. This study documents the local extinction of a corallivorous reef fish, Oxymonacanthus longirostris, following a mass bleaching event that altered the species composition of associated coral communities. Local extinction only occurred on reefs that also completely lost a key prey species, Acropora millepora, even though coral cover remained high. In an experimental test, fish continued to select bleached A. millepora over the healthy, but less-preferred prey species that resisted bleaching. These results suggest that behavioural inflexibility may limit the ability of specialists to cope with even subtle changes to resource availability.

Item ID: 39145
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1432-0975
Keywords: coral reef fish; Oxymonacanthus longirostris; coral bleaching; corallivory; disturbance; local extinction
Funders: Marine and Tropical Science Research Facility (MTSRF), ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, James Cook University (JCU)
Date Deposited: 09 Jun 2015 04:57
FoR Codes: 06 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 0602 Ecology > 060205 Marine and Estuarine Ecology (incl Marine Ichthyology) @ 70%
07 AGRICULTURAL AND VETERINARY SCIENCES > 0704 Fisheries Sciences > 070403 Fisheries Management @ 30%
SEO Codes: 96 ENVIRONMENT > 9608 Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity > 960808 Marine Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity @ 70%
96 ENVIRONMENT > 9699 Other Environment > 969902 Marine Oceanic Processes (excl. Climate Related) @ 30%
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