Global ecological success of Thalassoma fishes in extreme coral reef habitats

Fulton, Christopher J., Wainwright, Peter C., Hoey, Andrew S., and Bellwood, David R. (2017) Global ecological success of Thalassoma fishes in extreme coral reef habitats. Ecology and Evolution, 7 (1). pp. 466-472.

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Abstract

Phenotypic adaptations can allow organisms to relax abiotic selection and facilitate their ecological success in challenging habitats, yet we have relatively little data for the prevalence of this phenomenon at macroecological scales. Using data on the relative abundance of coral reef wrasses and parrotfishes (f. Labridae) spread across three ocean basins and the Red Sea, we reveal the consistent global dominance of extreme wave-swept habitats by fishes in the genus Thalassoma, with abundances up to 15 times higher than any other labrid. A key locomotor modification-a winged pectoral fin that facilitates efficient underwater flight in high-flow environments-is likely to have underpinned this global success, as numerical dominance by Thalassoma was contingent upon the presence of high-intensity wave energy. The ecological success of the most abundant species also varied with species richness and the presence of congeneric competitors. While several fish taxa have independently evolved winged pectoral fins, Thalassoma appears to have combined efficient high-speed swimming (to relax abiotic selection) with trophic versatility (to maximize exploitation of rich resources) to exploit and dominate extreme coral reef habitats around the world.

Item ID: 50285
Item Type: Article (Refereed Research - C1)
Keywords: aspect ratio, ecomorphology, labriform, macroecology, specialization
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This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

ISSN: 2045-7758
Funders: Yulgilbar Foundation Fellowship, Australian Research Council (ARC), King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST)
Date Deposited: 20 Sep 2017 07:34
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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