Synchronous behavioural shifts in reef fishes linked to mass coral bleaching

Keith, Sally A., Baird, Andrew H., Hobbs, Jean-Paul A., Woolsey, Erika S., Hoey, Andrew S., Fadli, N., and Sanders, Nathan J. (2018) Synchronous behavioural shifts in reef fishes linked to mass coral bleaching. Nature Climate Change, 8 (11). pp. 986-991.

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Abstract

Mass coral bleaching causes population declines and mortality of coral reef species(1) yet its impacts on behaviour are largely unknown. Here, we unite behavioural theory with community ecology to test whether bleaching-induced mass mortality of corals can cause consistent changes in the behaviour of coral-feeding fishes. We documented 5,259 encounters between individuals of 38 Chaetodon (butterflyfish) species on 17 reefs within the central Indo-Pacific, of which 3,828 were repeated on 10 reefs both before and after the global coral bleaching event in 2016. Aggression between butterflyfishes decreased by two-thirds following large-scale coral mortality, despite no significant change in fish abundance or community composition. Pairwise encounters were most likely to be aggressive between obligate corallivores and on reefs with high coral cover. After bleaching, the proportion of preferred Acropora corals in the diet decreased significantly (up to 85% fewer bites), with no increase in overall bite rate to compensate for the loss of these nutritionally rich corals. The observed reduced aggression at low resource levels due to nutritional deficit follows the predictions of the economic theory of aggressive behaviour(2,3). Our results reveal synchronous changes in behaviour in response to coral mortality. Such changes could potentially disrupt territories(4), leading to reorganization of ecological communities.

Item ID: 56165
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1758-6798
Copyright Information: Copyright © The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Nature Limited 2018.
Funders: Villum Foundation (VF), Danish National Research Foundation (DNRF), Australian Research Council (ARC)
Projects and Grants: VF grant no. 10114, DNRF DNRF96, ARC CE140100020
Date Deposited: 21 Nov 2018 07:37
FoR Codes: 06 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 0602 Ecology > 060205 Marine and Estuarine Ecology (incl Marine Ichthyology) @ 70%
06 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 0602 Ecology > 060201 Behavioural Ecology @ 30%
SEO Codes: 96 ENVIRONMENT > 9608 Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity > 960808 Marine Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity @ 50%
96 ENVIRONMENT > 9603 Climate and Climate Change > 960399 Climate and Climate Change not elsewhere classified @ 50%
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