Environmental Biology of Fishes

, Volume 58, Issue 4, pp 401-409

First online:

Territoriality and Habitat Use by Juvenile Blue Tangs, Acanthurus coeruleus

  • Thomas BellAffiliated withDepartment of Biology, McGill University
  • , Donald L. KramerAffiliated withDepartment of Biology, McGill University

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We studied territoriality and habitat use by yellow phase juvenile blue tangs, Acanthurus coeruleus, on a small fringing reef in Barbados, West Indies. Juvenile blue tangs occurred on the reef crest, spurs, and a transition zone between the reef crest and reef flat at a density of about 8 individuals per 100 m2, but were much rarer on the reef flat. They were solitary and occupied stable home ranges (median=0.85 m2) that increased with body size. Observational and experimental data documented aggressive defense of home ranges against conspecific and to a lesser extent congeneric, A. bahianus, juveniles (about 7.5 approaches and attacks per hour directed at intruders). Home range locations were structurally more complex and closer to a vertical face than expected by chance. Although juvenile blue tang territories overlapped considerably with those of larger and more aggressive Stegastes damselfish, which are believed to exclude solitary adult Acanthurus spp. from reef crest and spurs, the tangs avoided Stegastes and were rarely chased (<0.3 fleeing events per hour). Space use and social organization of yellow juvenile blue tangs contrast strikingly with that of both conspecific adults and congeneric juveniles.

Acanthuridae surgeonfish territory home range Barbados Caribbean coral reef fish