Predation on crown-of-thorns starfish larvae by damselfishes

Cowan, Zara-Louise, Dworjanyn, Symon A., Caballes, Ciemon, and Pratchett, Morgan (2016) Predation on crown-of-thorns starfish larvae by damselfishes. Coral Reefs, 35 (4). pp. 1253-1262.

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Examining the functional response of predators can provide insight into the role of predation in structuring prey populations and ecological communities. This study explored feeding behaviour and functional responses of planktivorous damselfishes when offered captive reared larvae of crown-of-thorns starfish, Acanthaster sp., with the aim of determining whether these predators could ever play a role in moderating outbreaks of Acanthaster sp. We examined predatory behaviour of 11 species of planktivorous damselfish, testing: (1) the relationship between predator size and predation rate, both within and among fish species; (2) consumption rates on larvae of Acanthaster sp. versus larvae of a common, co-occurring coral reef asteroid Linckia laevigata; (3) maximal feeding rates upon both Acanthaster sp. and L. laevigata; and (4) functional responses of planktivorous fishes to increasing densities of Acanthaster sp. Consumption rates of crown-of-thorns larvae by damselfishes were independent of predator size; however, there was a significant negative relationship between predator size and consumption rate of L. laevigata, when pooling across all predatory species. Some damselfishes, including Acanthochromis polyacanthus and Amblyglyphidodon curacao, consumed larval Acanthaster sp. at a greater rate than for L. laevigata. Most predatory species (all except A. curacao and Pomacentrus amboinensis) exhibited a Type II functional response whereby the increasing feeding rate decelerated with increasing prey density. In addition to revealing that a wide range of planktivorous fishes can prey upon larvae of Acanthaster sp., these data suggest that planktivorous damselfishes may have the capacity to buffer against population fluctuations of Acanthaster sp. Importantly, predators with Type II functional responses often contribute to stability of prey populations, though planktivorous fishes may be swamped by an abnormally high influx of larvae, potentially contributing to the characteristic population fluctuations of Acanthaster sp.

Item ID: 46323
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1432-0975
Keywords: predation; functional response; chemical defence; Acanthaster; larvae; damselfish
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A version of this publication was included as Chapter 4 of the following PhD thesis: Cowan, Zara-Louise (2017) Predation on the early life stages of the crown-of-thorns starfish (Acanthaster cf. solaris). PhD thesis, James Cook University, which is available Open Access in ResearchOnline@JCU. Please see the Related URLs for access.

Funders: Ian Potter Foundation, ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, James Cook University (JCU)
Projects and Grants: Ian Potter Foundation 50th Anniversary Commemorative Grant
Date Deposited: 14 Nov 2016 01:25
FoR Codes: 31 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 3103 Ecology > 310305 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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