, Volume 67, Issue 4, pp 359-367

The Toxicity of Skin Secretions from Coral-Dwelling Gobies and their Potential Role as a Predator Deterrent

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Coral-dwelling gobies in the genus Gobiodon (family Gobiidae) posses toxic skin secretions. We used bioassays to investigate interspecific variation in the toxicity of skin secretions from six species of Gobiodon from Lizard Island on the Great Barrier Reef. We then used feeding experiments with two common species of predatory fish to test if skin secretions might act as a chemical defence against predation. The skin secretions of all species were toxic to the bioassay species, Apogon fragilis, but there were marked differences in toxicity among Gobiodon species. Feeding experiments showed that both small- and large-gaped predators avoided food items to which goby skin secretions, or a whole goby, had been added. These experiments indicate that skin toxins could function as a predator deterrent in coral-dwelling gobies.