Variation in the parasite communities of three co-occurring herbivorous coral reef fishes

Motson, Katie, Hutson, Kate S., and Hoey, Andrew S. (2023) Variation in the parasite communities of three co-occurring herbivorous coral reef fishes. Journal of Fish Biology, 102 (4). pp. 757-772.

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Parasites are important, diverse, and abundant components of natural ecosystems and can influence the behaviour and health of their hosts, inter- and intraspecific interactions, and ultimately community structure. Coral reefs are one of the world's most biodiverse ecosystems, yet our understanding of the abundance, diversity, and composition of parasite communities of coral reef fishes is limited. Here, the authors aimed to compare the abundance, richness and composition of parasite communities among three co-occurring herbivorous coral reef fishes (the barred rabbitfish Siganus doliatus, Ward's damsel Pomacentrus wardi and the obscure damsel Pomacentrus adelus) from an inshore reef of the Great Barrier Reef (GBR). In total, 3978 parasites (3869 endoparasites and 109 ectoparasites) from 17 families were recovered from 30 individuals of each of the three fish species (mean = 44 ± 22 s.e. parasites per fish; range = 0–1947 parasites per fish). The parasite communities of P. wardi and P. adelus were characterised by pennellid copepods, derogenid and lecithasterid digeneans and were distinct from those of S. doliatus that were characterised by a higher abundance of atractotrematid and gyliauchenid digeneans. The abundance and family richness of all parasites were greatest in S. doliatus (abundance: 22.1 ± 5.0 parasites per fish; richness: 3.2 ± 0.3 families per fish), intermediate in P. wardi (abundance: 4.8 ± 1.1 parasites per fish; richness: 2.3 ± 0.3 families per fish) and lowest in P. adelus (abundance: 1.4 ± 0.4 parasites per fish; richness: 0.9 ± 0.2 families per fish). Similarly, the abundance of endoparasites was greatest in S. doliatus (19.7 ± 5.1 endoparasites per fish), intermediate in P. wardi (2.6 ± 0.7 endoparasites per fish) and lowest in P. adelus (1.2 ± 0.4 endoparasites per fish). Ectoparasite abundances were also lowest for P. adelus (0.2 ± 0.1 ectoparasites per fish), and S. doliatus and P. wardi had comparable abundances of ectoparasites (1.3 ± 0.3 and 2.1 ± 0.5 parasites per fish, respectively). Similarities between the parasite assemblages of the two pomacentrids may be related to their similar behaviours and/or diets vs. those of the larger-bodied and more mobile rabbitfish. Investigating the causes and consequences of variation in parasite communities across a broader range of fish species will be critical to understand the potential role of parasites in coral reef ecosystems.

Item ID: 78547
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1095-8649
Keywords: abundance, diet, ectoparasite, endoparasite, host fish size, richness
Copyright Information: © 2023 The Authors. Journal of Fish Biology published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of Fisheries Society of the British Isles. 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: ARC Centre of Excellence (CoE) for Coral Reef Studies
Date Deposited: 25 Oct 2023 03:36
FoR Codes: 31 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 3103 Ecology > 310305 Marine and estuarine ecology (incl. marine ichthyology) @ 50%
31 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 3107 Microbiology > 310703 Microbial ecology @ 50%
SEO Codes: 28 EXPANDING KNOWLEDGE > 2801 Expanding knowledge > 280102 Expanding knowledge in the biological sciences @ 100%
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