Marine Biology

, Volume 110, Issue 1, pp 145–150 | Cite as

A link between biologically imported particulate organic nutrients and the detritus food web in reef communities

  • T. C. Rothans
  • A. C. Miller


Previous work with planktivorous fishes has shown that they import particulate organic and inorganic material to reefs in the form of fecal pellets, which, in part, are deposited in crevices on the reef where these fishes shelter during their inactive period. Since these feces do not accumulate in fish shelters, we predicted that some of the feces could be rapidly consumed by reef detritivores. We examined the attractiveness of fish feces to potential reef detritivores by placing traps baited with planktivorous fish feces, along with unbaited control traps, in crevices on rocky reefs at Santa Catalina Island, California, USA, between June 1982 and November 1983, and on coral reefs at St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands, during June 1983. Significantly more animals (the majority being crustaceans) were trapped in the baited traps compared to the unbaited controls on both reefs. There was also a significant association between the presence of trapped animals and fish feces at Santa Catalina Island (p = 0.009); this association was not quite as strong in St. Croix (p = 0.069). The consumption by shrimp of feces marked with carmine particles and, in turn, the predation on these shrimp by a reef fish demonstrates the links between this type of imported particulate organic and inorganic material and the food web of the reef community.


Coral Reef Reef Fish Fecal Pellet Reef Community Planktivorous Fish 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1991

Authors and Affiliations

  • T. C. Rothans
    • 1
  • A. C. Miller
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of BiologyCalifornia State UniversityLong BeachUSA

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