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Interspecific territoriality and competition for food between the reef fishes Forsterygion varium and Pseudolabrus celidotus

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Long-term behavioural studies were made of the blennioid fish Forsterygion varium and the wrasse Pseudolabrus celidotus in the Cape Rodney-Okakari Point Marine Reserve in New Zealand. Both male and female F. varium defended small 1 to 2 m2 territories from the wrasse all year round, althoughl aggressive encounters were most frequent from December to April. Only Large P. celidotus (≧180 mm standard length) were observed to dominate the blenny in interactions. Defence of nests, which were found only on the territories of males between May and October, did not explain the distribution of F. varium aggression between the sexes and seasons. An extensive overlap in the categories and size of prey eaten suggested that protection of food was a major function of F. varium territoriality. F. varium was most frequently aggressive toward P. celidotus of an intermediate size (110 to 160 mm SL) and exhibited greatest overlap in diet with wrasses in this size lange. This dnected the study toward examining the effect of F. varium on the feeding activity of P. celidotus. Within a shallow, Leterogeneous reef habitat, feeding pressure by P. celidotus (bites/are/time) was inversely related to the density of F. varium. Removal of F. varium from small 5x5 m quadrats resulted in large increases in wrasse feeding pressure, suggesting that the blenny influences the foraging of wrasses within their home ranges. When F. varium were removed from the entire home ranges of five 1+yr (110 to 130 mm SL) P. celidotus, these fish exhibited relative increases in both feeding rate and foraging time. The results suggest that P. celidotus grow through a period during which individuals compete with F. varium for food, adding support to the contention that territoriality in F. varium functions to preserve its food supply.

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Communicated by G. F. Humphrey, Sydney

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Thompson, S.M., Jones, G.P. Interspecific territoriality and competition for food between the reef fishes Forsterygion varium and Pseudolabrus celidotus . Marine Biology 76, 95–104 (1983). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00393060

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  • Home Range
  • Food Supply
  • Defend
  • Standard Length
  • Reef Fish