Coral Reefs

, Volume 30, Issue 3, pp 631-642

First online:

Passive acoustic telemetry reveals highly variable home range and movement patterns among unicornfish within a marine reserve

  • A. MarshellAffiliated withMarine Spatial Ecology Lab, School of Biological Sciences, University of QueenslandMarine Laboratory, University of Guam Email author 
  • , J. S. MillsAffiliated withMarine Laboratory, University of Guam
  • , K. L. RhodesAffiliated withCollege of Agriculture, Forestry and Natural Resource Management, University of Hawaii at Hilo
  • , J. McIlwainAffiliated withMarine Laboratory, University of Guam

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Marine reserves are the primary management tool for Guam’s reef fish fishery. While a build-up of fish biomass has occurred inside reserve boundaries, it is unknown whether reserve size matches the scale of movement of target species. Using passive acoustic telemetry, we quantified movement patterns and home range size of two heavily exploited unicornfish Naso unicornis and Naso lituratus. Fifteen fish (N. unicornis: n = 7; N. lituratus: n = 4 male, n = 4 female) were fitted with internal acoustic tags and tracked continuously over four months within a remote acoustic receiver array located in a decade-old marine reserve. This approach provided robust estimates of unicornfish movement patterns and home range size. The mean home range of 3.2 ha for N. unicornis was almost ten times larger than that previously recorded from a three-week tracking study of the species in Hawaii. While N. lituratus were smaller in body size, their mean home range (6.8 ha) was over twice that of N. unicornis. Both species displayed strong site fidelity, particularly during nocturnal and crepuscular periods. Although there was some overlap, individual movement patterns and home range size were highly variable within species and between sexes. N. unicornis home range increased with body size, and only the three largest fish home ranges extended into the deeper outer reef slope beyond the shallow reef flat. Both Naso species favoured habitat dominated by corals. Some individuals made predictable daily crepuscular migrations between different locations or habitat types. There was no evidence of significant spillover from the marine reserve into adjacent fished areas. Strong site fidelity coupled with negligible spillover suggests that small-scale reserves, with natural habitat boundaries to emigration, are effective in protecting localized unicornfish populations.


Acoustic telemetry Home range Movement patterns Marine reserves Acanthuridae Guam