Fine-scale foraging behavior reveals differences in the functional roles of herbivorous reef fishes

Semmler, Robert F., Brandl, Simon J., Keith, Sally, and Bellwood, David R. (2021) Fine-scale foraging behavior reveals differences in the functional roles of herbivorous reef fishes. Ecology and Evolution, 11 (9). pp. 4898-4908.

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Efforts to understand and protect ecosystem functioning have put considerable emphasis on classifying species according to the functions they perform. However, coarse classifications based on diet or feeding mode often oversimplify species' contributions to ecological processes. Behavioral variation among superficially similar species is easily missed but could indicate important differences in competitive interactions and the spatial scale at which species deliver their functions. To test the extent to which behavior can vary within existing functional classifications, we investigate the diversity of foraging movements in three herbivorous coral reef fishes across two functional groups. We find significant variation in foraging movements and spatial scales of operation between species, both within and across existing functional groups. Specifically, we show that movements and space use range from low frequency foraging bouts separated by short distances and tight turns across a small area, to high frequency, far-ranging forays separated by wide sweeping turns. Overall, we add to the burgeoning evidence that nuanced behavioral differences can underpin considerable complementarity within existing functional classifications, and that species assemblages may be considerably less redundant than previously thought.

Item ID: 70435
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 2045-7758
Keywords: complementarity, coral reefs, foraging behavior, functional traits, movement
Copyright Information: © 2021 The Authors. Ecology and Evolution published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd. 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.
Funders: Australian Research Council (ARC)
Projects and Grants: ARC CE140100020, ARC FL190100062
Research Data:,
Date Deposited: 12 Apr 2022 00:01
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