, Volume 28, Issue 1, p 227
Date: 18 Nov 2008

Coral reef fishes use crown-of-thorns seastar as habitat

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Between January and July 2008, we observed an unusual association between several species of coral reef fishes and the corallivorous crown-of-thorns seastar Acanthaster planci within the lagoon of Moorea, French Polynesia (17°30′S: 149°50′W). Four species of recently settled damselfishes (Pomacentrus pavo, Dascyllus aruanus, D. flavicaudus, and D. trimaculatus) as well as juveniles and adults of a cardinalfish (Siphamia sp.) were seen sheltering within the venomous spines of Acanthaster. Three of the damselfish species normally occupy branching corals throughout their lives, one occupies sea anemones when young and shifts to general coral reef habitat when older, and the cardinalfish, an undescribed species (O. Gon and J. Randall, pers. comm.), appears to normally associate with sea urchins.

Fishes only inhabited Acanthaster when the seastars occurred on sandy substrate at least several meters away from corals. Surveys done in January along four 200 × 10 m transects (5, 10, 15, and 20 m ...