, Volume 103, Issue 2, pp 180–190 | Cite as

Competitive ability and the potential for lotteries among territorial reef fishes

  • D. Ross Robertson
Original Paper


Stegastes diencaeus and S. dorsopunicans are mutually territorial Caribbean damselfishes. S. diencaeus is larger, grows faster and lives longer than S. dorsopunicans. S. diencaeus is a habitat specialist that shares its primary habitat mainly with S. dorsopunicans. Field manipulations show that both S. diencaeus and S. dorsopunicans readily take over living space from smaller, but not larger, heterospecific neighbors. Natural changes in the use of living space by both species occur frequently and adult S. diencaeus often aggressively usurp the living areas of smaller S. dorsopunicans. Lunar and seasonal patterns of juvenile recruitment by S. diencaeus and S. dorsopunicans are similar. Large size bestows competitive superiority on S. diencaeus by giving its adults a superior ability to aggressively acquire living space, and by enabling its juveniles to quickly escape the period when they lack a size advantage. Hence they spend much of their lives as competitive dominants. There is no evidence that competitive advantages arising from large size are offset either by other adult attributes or by differences in temporal patterns of recruitment that affect priority of access to space. The lottery hypothesis for species coexistence relies on patterns of abundance being determined by patterns of recruitment to vacant space because different species have equal space-holding abilities. These data show that the existence of such a mechanism is doubtful.

Key words

Coral reef fish Lottery coexistence Competitive ability 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1995

Authors and Affiliations

  • D. Ross Robertson
    • 1
  1. 1.Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute(Panama)

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