Environmental Biology of Fishes

, Volume 74, Issue 1, pp 99–107 | Cite as

Interpreting Space Use and Behavior of Blue Tang, Acanthurus coeruleus, in the Context of Habitat, Density, and Intra-specific Interactions

  • Brice X. SemmensEmail author
  • Daniel R. Brumbaugh
  • Joshua A. Drew


We hypothesized that blue tang, Acanthurus coeruleus, territories on sites with low biogenic structure would be larger than territories on sites with relatively high biogenic structure due to differences in the amount and distribution of resources. We tested this hypothesis by tracking blue tang over uncolonized pavement and reef crest, two habitat types at opposite ends of the habitat structure spectrum. We recorded density, feeding rates and aggression events in order to evaluate our findings in the context of a territory model and the ideal free distribution model. Territories of A. coeruleus averaged nearly four times larger on pavement sites than on reef crest sites. Conversely, densities of A. coeruleus were significantly lower on pavement sites. While there was no significant difference in the average rates of movement between habitats, average turning angles were significantly higher on reef crest. There were no significant differences in feeding rates between habitats, suggesting that higher territory sizes and lower densities may allow fish on uncolonized pavement to match resource acquisition of fish on reef crest. The insignificant difference of aggression encounters between habitats suggests that movement and density differences among habitats are not solely legacies of differential settlement.


movement coral reef behavior space territory home range 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Anholt, B.R. 1990An experimental separation of interference and exploitative competition in a larval damselflyEcology7114831493Google Scholar
  2. Aronson, R., Edmunds, P., Precht, W., Swanson, D., Levitan, D. 1994Large-scale, long-term monitoring of Caribbean coral reefs: simple, quick, inexpensive techniquesAtoll Research Bulletin421119Google Scholar
  3. Bell, T., Kramer, D.L. 2000Territoriality and habitat use by juvenile blue tangs, Acanthurus coeruleusEnviron. Biol. Fish.58401409CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bruggemann, J.H., Oppen, M.J.H.V., Breeman, A.M. 1994Foraging by the stoplight parrotfish (Sparisoma viride). 1. Food selection in different socially determined habitatsMar. Ecol. Prog. Ser1064155Google Scholar
  5. Crowley, M.G., Nisbet, R.M., Gurney, W.S.C., Lawton, J.H. 1987Population regulation in animals with complex life-histories: formulation and analysis of a damselfly modelAdv. Ecol. Res.17159Google Scholar
  6. Drucker, E.G., Lauder, G.V. 2000A hydrodynamic analysis of fish swimming speed: wake structure and locomotor force in slow and fast labriform swimmersJ. Exp. Biol.20323792393PubMedGoogle Scholar
  7. Edmunds, P.J. 2002Long-term Dynamics of Coral Reefs in St. Johns, US Virgin IslandsCoral Reefs21357367Google Scholar
  8. Foster, S.A. 1985Group foraging by a coral reef fish: a mechanism for gaining access to defended resourcesAnim. Behav.33779782Google Scholar
  9. Fretwell, S.D. 1972Populations in a Seasonal EnvironmentPrinceton University PressPrinceton, NY217Google Scholar
  10. Fretwell, S.D., Lucas, H.L. 1970On territorial behavior and other factors influencing habitat distribution in birds. I. Theoretical developmentActa Biotheoretica191636CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Gardner, T.A., Côté, I.M., Gill, J.A., Grant, A., Watkinson, A.R. 2003Long-term region-wide declines in Caribbean coralsScience301958960CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  12. Garrison, V.H., Rogers, C.S., Beets, J. 1998Of reef fishes, overfishing and in situ observation of fish traps in St. John, US Virgin IslandsRevista de Biologia Tropical464159Google Scholar
  13. GCRMN2002Status of Coral Reefs of the World: 2002Australia Institute of Marine ScienceTownsville378Google Scholar
  14. Ginsburg R.N., compiler. 1994. Proceedings of the Colloquium on Global Aspects of Coral Reefs: Health, Hazards and History Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science University of Miami 420 ppGoogle Scholar
  15. Gust, N. 2002Scarid biomass on the northern Great Barrier Reef: the influence of exposure, depth and substrataEnviron. Biol. Fish.64353366CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Hay, M.E. 1984Patterns of fish and urchin grazing on Caribbean coral reefs: are previous results typical?Ecology 65446454Google Scholar
  17. Hixon, M.A. 1980Food production and competitor density as the determinants of feeding territory sizeAm. Nat.115510530CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Hooge, P.N., Eichenlaub, B. 1997Animal Movement Extension to Arcview1.1Alaska Biological Science Center, U.S. Geological SurveyAnchorage, AK000Google Scholar
  19. Hughes, T.P. 1994Catastrophes, phase shifts, and large-scale degradation of a Caribbean coral reefScience26515471551Google Scholar
  20. Jensen, A.L. 1987Simple models for exploitative and interference competitionEcol. Model.35561565CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Jones, K.M.M. 2002Behavioural overlap in six Caribbean labrid species: intra- and interspecific similaritiesEnviron. Biol. Fish.657181CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Kaufmann, J. 1983On the definition and functions of dominance and territorialityBiol. Rev.58120CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Kleypas, J.A., Buddemeier, R.A., Archer, D., Gattuso, J., Langdon, C., Opdyke, B.N. 1999Geochemical consequences of increased atmospheric carbon dioxide on coral reefsScience284118120CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  24. Kleypas, J.A., Buddemeier, R.A., Guttuso, J.P. 2001The future of coral reefs in an age of global changeInt. J. Earth Sci.90426437CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Kohn, A. 1968Microhabitats, abundance and food of Conus on atoll reefs in the Maldives and Chagos IslandsEcology4910461061Google Scholar
  26. Korsmeyer, K.E., Steffensen, J.F., Herskin, J. 2002Energetics of median and paired fin swimming, body and caudal fin swimming, and gait transition in parrotfish (Scarus schlegeli) and triggerfish (Rhinecanthus aculeatus)J. Exp. Biol.20512531263PubMedGoogle Scholar
  27. Kramer, D.L., Chapman, M.R. 1999Implications of fish home range size and relocation for marine functionEnviron. Biol. Fish.556579Google Scholar
  28. Lande, R. 1988Demographic models of the northern spotted owl (Strix occidentalis caurina)Oecologia75601607CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Lawson, G.L., Kramer, D.L., Hunte, W. 1999Size-relative habitat use and schooling behavior in two species of surgeonfish (Acanthurus bahianus and A. coeruleus) on a fringing reef in Barbados, West IndiesEnviron. Biol. Fish.541933CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Levin, P.S., Tolimieri, N., Nicklin, M., Sale, P.F. 2000Integrating individual behavior and population ecology: the potential for habitat-dependent population regulation in a reef fishBehav. Ecol.11565571CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Lewis, S.M., Wainwright, P.C. 1985Herbivore abundance and grazing intensity on a Caribbean coral reefJ. Exp. Mar. Biol. Ecol.87215228CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Liddell, W.D., Ohlhorst, S.L. 1986Changes in the benthic community composition following the mass mortality of Diadema at JamaicaJ. Exp. Mar. Biol. Ecol.95271278CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. McClanahan, T.R., Bergman, K., Huitric, M., McField, M., Elfwing, T., Nystrom, M., Nordemar, I. 2000Response of fishes to algae reduction on Glovers Reef, BelizeMar. Ecol. Prog. Ser.206273282Google Scholar
  34. McClanahan, T.R., Uku, J.N., Machano, H. 2002Effect of macroalgal reduction on coral-reef fish in the Watamu Marine National Park, KenyaMar. Freshwater Res.53223231CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Morgan, I.M., Kramer, D.L. 2004The social organization of adult blue tangs (Acanthurus coeruleus) on a fringing reef, Barbados, West IndiesEnviron. Biol. Fish.71261273CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Mumby, P.J., Harborne, A.R. 1999Development of a systematic classification scheme of marine habitats to facilitate regional management and mapping of Caribbean coral reefsBiol. Conserv.88155163CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Mumby, P.J., Wabnitz, C.C.C. 2002Spatial patterns of aggression, territory size and harem size in five sympatric Caribbean parrotfish speciesEnviron. Biol. Fish63265279CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Munro, J.L. 1974The mode of operation of Antillean fish traps and the relationships between ingress, escapement, catch and soakJ. Conserv. CIEM35337350Google Scholar
  39. O’Dor, R.K., Aitken, J.P., Babcock, R.C., Bolden, S.K., Seino, S., Zeller, D.C., Jackson, G.D. 2001Using radio-acoustic positioning and telemetry (RAPT) to define and assess marine protected areas (MPAs)Sibert, J.Nielsen, J. eds. Electronic Tagging and Tracking In Marine Fisheries, Reviews: Methods and Technologies in Fish Biology and Fisheries1Kluwer Academic PressDordrecht, The Netherlands147166Google Scholar
  40. Ogden, J.C., Lobel, P.S. 1978The role of herbivorous fishes and urchins in coral reef communitiesEnviron. Biol. Fish.34963CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Overholtzer, K.L., Motta, P.J. 1999Comparative resource use by juvenile parrotfishes in the Florida KeysMar. Ecol. Prog. Ser.177177187Google Scholar
  42. Parsons, D.M., Babcock, R.C., Hankin, R.K.S., Willis, T.J., Aitken, J.P., O’Dor, R.K., Jackson, G.D. 2003Snapper Pagrus auratus (Sparidae) home range dynamics: acoustic tagging studies in a marine reserveMar. Ecol. Prog. Ser.262253265Google Scholar
  43. Reese, E.S. 1978The study of space-related behaviour in aquatic animals: special problems and selected examplesReese, E.S.Lighter, F.J. eds. Contrasts in BehaviourJohn WileyNew York347374Google Scholar
  44. Robertson, D.R. 1988What determines abundances of adult surgeonfishes on patch-reefs in Caribbean PanamaMar. Biol.97495501CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Robertson, D.R. 1988What determines abundances of adult surgeonfishes on patch-reefs in Caribbean PanamaMarine Biology97495501CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Russ, G.R. 2003Grazer biomass correlates more strongly with production than with biomass of algal turfs on a coral reefCoral Reefs226367Google Scholar
  47. Samoilys, M.A. 1997Movement in a large predatory fish: coral trout, Plectropomus leopardus (Pisces: Serranidae), on Heron Reef, AustraliaCoral Reefs16151158CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. SAS Institute Inc. 2003. SAS Online Doc®, Version 8.2, SAS Institute Inc. 000 ppGoogle Scholar
  49. Shapiro, D.Y. 1987Patterns of space use common to widely different types of social groupings of a coral reef fishEnviron. Biol. Fish.18183194CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Szmant, A. 1991Sexual reproduction by the Caribbean reef corals Montastrea annularis and M. cavernosaMar. Ecol. Prog. Ser.741325Google Scholar
  51. Uttley, M.G. 1980A laboratory study of mutual interference between freshwater invertebrate predatorsM.S. thesisUniversity of York, England000Google Scholar
  52. Rooij, J.M., Jong, E.D., Vaandrager, F., Videler, J.J. 1996aResource and habitat sharing by stoplight parrotfish, Sparisoma viride, a Caribbean reef herbivoreEnviron. Biol. Fish.478191CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Rooij, J.M., Kroon, F.J., Videler, J.J. 1996bThe social and mating system of the herbivorous reef fish Sparisoma viride: one-male vs. multi-male groupsEnviron. Biol. Fish.47353378CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Watling, L., Norse, E. 1998Disturbance of the seabed by mobile fishing gear: a comparison to forest clear-cuttingConserv. Biol.1211801197CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Williams, D.M. 1991Patterns and processes in the distribution of coral reef fishesSale, P.F. eds. The Ecology of Fishes on Coral ReefsAcademic PressNew York437474Google Scholar
  56. Williams, I.D., Poulunin, N.V.C., Hendrick, V.J. 2001Limits to grazing by herbivorous fishes and the impact of low coral cover on macroalgal abundance on a coral reef in BelizeMar. Ecol. Prog. Ser.222187196Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Brice X. Semmens
    • 1
    Email author
  • Daniel R. Brumbaugh
    • 2
  • Joshua A. Drew
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of BiologyUniversity of WashingtonSeattleUSA
  2. 2.Center for Biodiversity and ConservationAmerican Museum of Natural HistoryNew YorkUSA
  3. 3.Marine Program Marine Biological LaboratoryBoston UniversityWoods HoleUSA

Personalised recommendations