Cleaning to corallivory: ontogenetic shifts in feeding ecology of tubelip wrasse
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Cleaning and corallivory are two prevalent feeding modes among coral reef fishes. Some fishes exhibit ontogenetic shifts between cleaning behaviour and corallivory, suggesting some common physiological or morphological adaptations suited to these highly contrasting feeding habits. This study investigated ontogenetic changes in feeding behaviour for three species of coral-feeding wrasses (F: Labridae). All three species (Labrichthys unilineatus, Labropsis alleni and Diproctacanthus xanthurus) exhibited substantial changes in feeding behaviour from juvenile to adult size classes. While L. unilineatus was corallivorous throughout its entire life, the coral taxa consumed varied greatly with ontogeny. Labropsis alleni and D. xanthurus exhibited pronounced changes, with juveniles cleaning before a switch to obligate corallivory at approximately 3.5–5 cm. The ability of L. alleni and D. xanthurus to adopt a cleaning strategy may be a consequence and their close relationship to the obligate cleaner wrasses (Genus: Labroides).
KeywordsOntogeny Labridae Coral-feeding Cleaning behaviour Specialisation
This study was completed in partial fulfilment of an honours degree in Marine Biology at James Cook University. The author greatly appreciates the assistance of T. Petray who helped collect field data. Thanks to M. Pratchett, G. Jones and two anonymous reviewers for helpful comments on earlier versions of this manuscript.
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