Reef fishes weaken dietary preferences after coral mortality, altering resource overlap

Semmler, Robert F., Sanders, Nathan J., CaraDonna, Paul J., Baird, Andrew H., Jing, Xin, Robinson, James P.W., Graham, Nicholas A.J., and Keith, Sally A. (2022) Reef fishes weaken dietary preferences after coral mortality, altering resource overlap. Journal of Animal Ecology, 91 (10). pp. 2125-2134.

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The direct and indirect effects of climate change can affect, and are mediated by, changes in animal behaviour. However, we often lack sufficient empirical data to assess how large-scale disturbances affect the behaviour of individuals, which scales up to influence communities. Here, we investigate these patterns by focusing on the foraging behaviour of butterflyfishes, prominent coral-feeding fishes on coral reefs, before and after a mass coral bleaching event in Iriomote, Japan. In response to 65% coral mortality, coral-feeding fishes broadened their diets, showing a significant weakening of dietary preferences across species. Multiple species reduced their consumption of bleaching-sensitive Acropora corals, while expanding their diets to consume a variety of other coral genera. This resulted in decreased dietary overlap among butterflyfishes. Behavioural changes in response to bleaching may increase resilience of coral reef fishes in the short term. However, coral mortality has reduced populations of coral-feeders world-wide, indicating the changes in feeding behaviour we document here may not be sufficient to ensure long-term resilience of butterflyfishes on coral reefs.

Item ID: 75946
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1365-2656
Keywords: bottom-up effects, coral bleaching, dietary preferences, foraging behaviour, resource partitioning
Copyright Information: 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. © 2022 The Authors. Journal of Animal Ecology published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of British Ecological Society.
Funders: ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies
Date Deposited: 07 Sep 2022 09:02
FoR Codes: 31 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 3103 Ecology > 310305 Marine and estuarine ecology (incl. marine ichthyology) @ 50%
41 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES > 4101 Climate change impacts and adaptation > 410102 Ecological impacts of climate change and ecological adaptation @ 50%
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