Marine Biology

, 164:201 | Cite as

The nutritional basis of seasonal selective feeding by a marine herbivorous fish

  • Jethro S. Johnson
  • Kendall D. Clements
  • David Raubenheimer
Original paper


Marine herbivorous fishes have the potential to significantly impact reef ecology through selective feeding on macroalgae. However, the nutritional drivers underlying their diet choice are often poorly understood. Here we examine diet, nutrient ingestion and assimilation in a marine herbivorous fish (Odax pullus; Labridae) endemic to temperate rocky reefs in New Zealand. Individuals were sampled across the year and across key life history stages to obtain a comprehensive insight into the nutritional consequences of feeding behaviour. Seasonal and ontogenetic changes in diet resulted in significant changes in the relative proportion of macronutrients ingested, and these changes coincided with periods of rapid somatic and reproductive tissue growth. In particular, protein and the sugar alcohol mannitol are likely to be important determinants of adult diets, and the seasonal availability of these nutrients is likely to be a key factor shaping the ecology and life history of this species.



Authors thank B. Doak and M. Birch for assistance with sample collection, Dr. H. Bolding, C. Goh and B. Dobson for assistance with HPLC analysis, and Dr. E. D. L Trip for help throughout all stages of this work.

Compliance with ethical standards


This study was funded by a Royal Society of New Zealand Marsden Fund award (UOA0404) to Kendall Clements and David Raubenheimer. Jethro Johnson was supported by a Commonwealth Scholarship awarded by the Commonwealth Scholarship Commission, UK.

Conflict of interest

Jethro Johnson declares he has no conflict of interest. Kendall Clements declares he has no conflict of interest. David Raubenheimer declares he has no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

Samples were collected under New Zealand Ministry of Fisheries permit 385, and all animal work was carried out following University of Auckland Animal Ethics Committee Approval (#AEC/03/2006/R456).

Supplementary material

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Biological SciencesUniversity of AucklandAucklandNew Zealand
  2. 2.School of Life and Environmental Sciences and Charles Perkins CentreUniversity of SydneyCamperdownAustralia
  3. 3.Jackson Laboratory for Genomic MedicineFarmingtonUSA

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