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Coral Reefs

, Volume 32, Issue 3, pp 835–846 | Cite as

Morphology, sociality, and ecology: can morphology predict pairing behavior in coral reef fishes?

  • S. J. Brandl
  • D. R. Bellwood
Report

Abstract

Morphology can contain valuable information about the ecological performance of reef fishes, but it has rarely been used in combination with social traits. Social behavior is known to influence the ecological role of fishes; however, the ecological basis for pairing in reef fishes is not well understood. Field observations of 2,753 individuals, in 47 species in six families of biting reef fishes (Acanthuridae, Chaetodontidae, Kyphosidae, Labridae, Pomacanthidae, Siganidae), were used in combination with six morphological measurements, to examine the morphology of fishes in different social systems. A principal components analysis of morphological traits segregated species with high proportions of pairing individuals from non-pairing species along principal component 1, explaining 40.8 % of the variation. Pairing species were characterized by large eyes, concave foreheads, pointed snouts, deep bodies, and small maximum sizes. There was a significant positive relationship between these morphological traits (i.e., scores on PC1) and the prevalence of pairing within the Chaetodontidae (r 2 = 0.59; P = 0.026), Siganidae (r 2 = 0.72; P = 0.004), and Acanthuridae (r 2 = 0.82; P < 0.001). This was consistent when traits were corrected for phylogenetic effects. No pattern was evident in the scarine Labridae (r 2 = 0.15; P = 0.17). The morphological characteristics found among pairing species suggest that pairing species share common ecological traits, including foraging for small prey items in micro-topographically complex environments such as reef crevices. These ecological traits may have played a role in the evolution of pairing behavior and subsequently led to the development of reproductive patterns based on monogamy.

Keywords

Pairing Ecomorphology Social system Reef fish Foraging ecology Functional morphology 

Notes

Acknowledgments

We wish to thank the staff of Lizard Island Research Station for field support; J. R. Hodge for statistical support; K. J. Nicolet, C. H. R. Goatley and J. Q. Welsh for field assistance; K. J. Nicolet, J. Q. Welsh, N. J. Marshall and four anonymous reviewers for helpful discussions and/or comments on earlier drafts of the manuscript. This work was supported by the Australian Research Council (DRB).

Supplementary material

338_2013_1042_MOESM1_ESM.docx (39 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 38 kb)

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© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef StudiesJames Cook UniversityTownsvilleAustralia
  2. 2.School of Marine and Tropical BiologyJames Cook UniversityTownsvilleAustralia

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