Coral Reefs

, Volume 37, Issue 1, pp 31–35 | Cite as

Complete and rapid reversal of the body color pattern in juveniles of the convict surgeonfish Acanthurus triostegus at Moorea Island (French Polynesia)

  • Marc Besson
  • Pauline Salis
  • Vincent Laudet
  • David Lecchini


Color polymorphism is widespread in animals and can be associated with temporary adjustments to environmental variables (phenotypic plasticity). In teleost fishes, one of the most remarkable examples of color plasticity is background adaptation in flatfishes. However, such rapid and complete changes in body color and pattern remain relatively unreported in other species. The convict surgeonfish Acanthurus triostegus is a gregarious species whose body color pattern consists of black vertical bars on a whitish body. Here, we describe an entirely reverse body color pattern (white vertical bars on a blackish body) that we observed in some A. triostegus juveniles in a nursery area at Moorea Island, French Polynesia. In aquaria, we determined that change from one color pattern to the other is rapid, reversible, and corresponds to phenotypic plasticity associated with aggressive behavior.


Color pattern Phenotypic plasticity Fish behavior Acanthurus triostegus 



We would like to thank H. Jacob and A. Mignucci for their help in the field, as well as B. Frédérich and T. Lorin for their helpful comments which greatly improved this manuscript.

Supplementary material

338_2017_1631_MOESM1_ESM.png (999 kb)
Fig. S1 Acanthurus triostegus nocturnal and stressed pigmentation pattern. Scale bar is 10 mm (PNG 998 kb)
ESM Video S1

CP juvenile turning into RP juvenile. CP: classical pigmentation pattern (black vertical bars on a whitish body); RP: reversal of the pigmentation pattern (white vertical bars on a blackish body). Video speed has been reduced twofold (MP4 184180 kb)

ESM Video S2

RP juvenile chasing its CP conspecifics. CP: classical pigmentation pattern (black vertical bars on a whitish body); RP: reversal of the pigmentation pattern (white vertical bars on a blackish body) (MP4 69168 kb)

ESM Video S3

Acanthurus triostegus shoal organization with RP individuals preventing CP individuals from feeding on rubble. CP: classical pigmentation pattern (black vertical bars on a whitish body); RP: reversal of the pigmentation pattern (white vertical bars on a blackish body) (MP4 78008 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Marc Besson
    • 1
    • 2
  • Pauline Salis
    • 2
  • Vincent Laudet
    • 2
  • David Lecchini
    • 1
    • 3
  1. 1.EPHE-UPVD-CNRS, USR3278-CRIOBEPSL Research-UniversityPapetoai, MooreaFrench Polynesia
  2. 2.CNRS-UMR7232-OOBUPMCBanyuls-sur-MerFrance
  3. 3.Laboratoire d’Excellence “CORAIL”Papetoai, MooreaFrench Polynesia

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