High prevalence of homing behaviour among juvenile coral-reef fishes and the role of body size

Streit, Robert P., and Bellwood, David R. (2017) High prevalence of homing behaviour among juvenile coral-reef fishes and the role of body size. Coral Reefs, 36 (4). pp. 1083-1095.

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Adult coral-reef fishes display a remarkable ability to return home after being displaced. However, we know very little about homing behaviour in juvenile fishes. Homing behaviour in juvenile fishes is of interest because it will shape subsequent spatial distributions of adult fish communities. Comparing multiple species, families and functional groups allows us to distinguish between species-specific traits and more generalised, species-independent traits that may drive homing behaviour. Using displacement experiments of up to 150 m, we quantified homing behaviour of juvenile, newly recruited reef fishes of seven species in three families, including herbivorous parrotfishes and rabbitfishes, carnivorous wrasse and planktivorous damselfishes. All species showed the ability to home successfully, but success rates differed among species. Juvenile parrotfishes were the most successful (67% returning home), while return rates in the other species ranged from 10.5% (Siganus doliatus) to 28.9% (Coris batuensis). However, across all species body size appeared to be the main driver of homing success, rather than species-specific traits. With every cm increase in body size, odds of returning home almost tripled (170% increase) across all species. Interestingly, the probability of getting lost was not related to body size, which suggests that mortality was not a major driver of unsuccessful homing. Homing probability halved beyond displacement distances of 10 m and then remained stable. Higher likelihood of homing over short distances may suggest that different sensory cues are used to navigate. Overall, our results suggest that homing ability is a widespread trait among juvenile reef fishes. A 'sense of home' and site attachment appear to develop early during ontogeny, especially above taxon-specific size thresholds. Hence, spatial flexibility exists only in a brief window after settlement, with direct implications for subsequent patterns of connectivity and ecosystem function in adult reef fish populations.

Item ID: 51726
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 0722-4028
Keywords: coral reef resilience, ontogeny, site fidelity, site attachment, spatial resilience, space use
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A version of this publication was included as Chapter 2 of the following PhD thesis: Streit, Robert Paul (2020) Space use by fishes on coral reefs: establishment, fidelity and reef resilience. PhD thesis, James Cook University, which is available Open Access in ResearchOnline@JCU. Please see the Related URLs for access.

Funders: Australian Research Council, Australian Government (AG)
Projects and Grants: AG Endeavour Postgraduate Scholarship
Research Data: https://doi.org/10.25903/5e7b016278e0b
Date Deposited: 06 Dec 2017 07:42
FoR Codes: 31 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 3103 Ecology > 310301 Behavioural ecology @ 50%
31 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 3109 Zoology > 310901 Animal behaviour @ 50%
SEO Codes: 97 EXPANDING KNOWLEDGE > 970106 Expanding Knowledge in the Biological Sciences @ 100%
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