Marine Biology

, 163:253 | Cite as

Contrasting patterns of vertical and horizontal space use of two exploited and sympatric coral reef fish

  • J. K. MatleyEmail author
  • A. J. Tobin
  • E. J. I. Lédée
  • M. R. Heupel
  • C. A. Simpfendorfer
Original paper


Understanding spatial distribution and temporal variation in movement patterns of closely related species is relevant for deciphering how resources are selected and whether interactions between species affect resource use patterns. The horizontal space use and vertical space use of two exploited reef fish, Plectropomus leopardus and P. laevis (all adults), were compared at mid-shelf Helix Reef and Lodestone Reef in the Great Barrier Reef over ~3 years using passive acoustic telemetry. Both species were detected throughout the 12-month duration of transmitters (mean detection period: ~270 days) and often made deep movements to ~40 m possibly related to reproductive behaviour (spawning). Differences in space use were apparent between species, with P. laevis consistently using greater area around reefs throughout the year. Overall, depth use patterns were similar between species; however, when daily detections were grouped in 2-h periods, P. laevis remained shallower and had greater variation in depth use compared to P. leopardus. Contrasting patterns of space use between these co-occurring species, in conjunction with known dietary dissimilarities, indicate distinct habitat use and resource preferences that are important for conservation and fisheries management.


Coral Reef Home Range Great Barrier Reef Reef Flat Reef Slope 
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.



This project was funded by the Australian Government’s National Environmental Research Program (Tropical Ecosystems Hub Project 6.1). MRH was supported by an Australian Research Council Future Fellowship (#FT100101004). Additional funding was granted to JKM from the James Cook University College of Marine and Environmental Sciences and the Graduate Research School; as well as a Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) PGS D scholarship. All research was conducted under JCU Animal Ethics Permit A1933 and research permits from the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (G12/35236.1 and G14/36624.1) and Queensland Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries (144482). The authors thank crew from the RV James Kirby, Vemco staff—particularly Courtney MacSween, as well as JCU staff/students who helped tag fish and download receivers including S. Moore, F. de Faria, P. Yates, C. Aguilar Hurtado, G. Molinaro, S. Sherman, and M. Espinoza.


This project was funded by the Australian Government’s National Environmental Research Program (Tropical Ecosystems Hub Project 6.1). MRH was supported by an Australian Research Council Future Fellowship (#FT100101004). Additional funding was granted to JKM from the James Cook University College of Marine and Environmental Sciences and the Graduate Research School; as well as a Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) PGS D scholarship.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

All authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

All research was conducted under JCU Animal Ethics Permit A1933 and research permits from the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (G12/35236.1 and G14/36624.1) and Queensland Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries (144482).


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • J. K. Matley
    • 1
    Email author
  • A. J. Tobin
    • 1
  • E. J. I. Lédée
    • 1
  • M. R. Heupel
    • 1
    • 2
  • C. A. Simpfendorfer
    • 1
  1. 1.Centre for Sustainable Tropical Fisheries and Aquaculture, College of Science and EngineeringJames Cook UniversityTownsvilleAustralia
  2. 2.Australian Institute of Marine ScienceTownsvilleAustralia

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