Strong homing does not predict high site fidelity in juvenile reef fishes
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After being displaced, juvenile reef fishes are able to return home over large distances. This strong homing behaviour is extraordinary and may allow insights into the longer-term spatial ecology of fish communities. For example, it appears intuitive that strong homing behaviour should be indicative of long-term site fidelity. However, this connection has rarely been tested. We quantified the site fidelity of juvenile fishes of four species after returning home following displacement. Two species, parrotfishes and Pomacentrus moluccensis, showed significantly reduced site fidelity after returning home. On average, they disappeared from their home sites almost 3 d earlier than expected. Mortality or competitive exclusion does not seem to be the main reasons for their disappearance. Rather, we suggest an increased propensity to relocate after encountering alternative reef locations while homing. It appears that some juvenile fishes may have a higher innate spatial flexibility than their strict homing drive suggests.
KeywordsHoming behaviour Site fidelity Site attachment Spatial resilience Space use
We thank J Khan, S Tebbett, P O’Brien and the staff at Lizard Island Research Station for field support. Comments by two anonymous reviewers substantially improved this manuscript. This work was supported by the Australian Research Council (DRB) and the Australian Government, Endeavour Postgraduate Scholarship (RPS).