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Patterns of migration between feeding and spawning sites in a coral reef surgeonfish

Abstract

Many coral reef fishes exhibit regular localised migrations between feeding and spawning areas, but the factors affecting these migration patterns, such as the distance, frequency and spawning site fidelity are poorly understood. The aim of this study was to investigate the patterns of migration to spawning sites of the surgeonfish, Ctenochaetus striatus (Acanthuridae). We explored relationships amongst an individual’s size and sex, the distance and frequency it migrated from its feeding area to spawning sites, fidelity to particular spawning sites and the number of individuals that aggregated to spawn. In order to achieve this, 406 C. striatus were captured and tagged on inshore reefs in Kimbe Bay (5°30′S 150°6′E), New Britain, Papua New Guinea. Tagged individuals were consistently observed within spatially discrete but overlapping feeding areas (maximum diameter averaging <13 m). The mean distance migrated was 58 m (ranging from 2 to 291 m). No tagged individuals were witnessed spawning at more than one site. Whilst most individuals (n = 88) migrated to the spawning site that was closest to their feeding areas, those that migrated to sites further away (n = 9) always spawned at sites where the number of conspecifics aggregating was larger. Neither the size nor the sex of individuals limited migration distance. However, males migrated significantly more frequently than females (on average once every 2 days vs. once every 3 days), and migration frequency was positively correlated with size in females. Migration distance did not affect the frequency with which individuals spawned. Whether patterns of migration are determined by cost-benefit optimisation, tradition, or an alternative mechanism is unknown.

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Acknowledgments

We wish to thank Mahonia na Dari Research and Conservation Centre, the Nature Conservancy, M. Benjamin from the Walindi Plantation Resort, B. Dyer for financial and logistical support, and the traditional owners of the Tamare-Kilu reefs for allowing access to their reefs. We also thank N. Reed, M. Barbosa, V. Messmer and A. Sapul for assistance in the field and two anonymous reviewers for constructive advice. Ethical approval for this research was granted by James Cook University Ethics Review Committee (Ethics approval # A718_01). Manuscript preparation was facilitated through the Fred Karush Endowed Library Readership at the Marine Biological Laboratory Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution Library.

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Correspondence to J. A. B. Claydon.

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Claydon, J.A.B., McCormick, M.I. & Jones, G.P. Patterns of migration between feeding and spawning sites in a coral reef surgeonfish. Coral Reefs 31, 77–87 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00338-011-0821-8

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Keywords

  • Spawning site
  • Coral reef fish
  • Migration
  • Tagging
  • Feeding area
  • Fish aggregation