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Foraging in corallivorous butterflyfish varies with wave exposure

Abstract

Understanding the foraging patterns of reef fishes is crucial for determining patterns of resource use and the sensitivity of species to environmental change. While changes in prey availability and interspecific competition have been linked to patterns of prey selection, body condition, and survival in coral reef fishes, rarely has the influence of abiotic environmental conditions on foraging been considered. We used underwater digital video to explore how prey availability and wave exposure influence the behavioural time budgets and prey selectivity of four species of obligate coral-feeding butterflyfishes. All four species displayed high selectivity towards live hard corals, both in terms of time invested and frequency of searching and feeding events. However, our novel analysis revealed that such selectivity was sensitive to wave exposure in some species, despite there being no significant differences in the availability of each prey category across exposures. In most cases, these obligate corallivores increased their selectivity towards their most favoured prey types at sites of high wave exposure. This suggests there are costs to foraging under different wave environments that can shape the foraging patterns of butterflyfishes in concert with other conditions such as prey availability, interspecific competition, and territoriality. Given that energy acquisition is crucial to the survival and fitness of fishes, we highlight how such environmental forcing of foraging behaviour may influence the ecological response of species to the ubiquitous and highly variable wave climates of shallow coral reefs.

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Acknowledgments

Our study was conducted on Jiigurru in the traditional sea country of the Dingaal people. Our thanks to: Lizard Island Research Station staff and Stewart Page for field assistance; H.-J. Yoon for statistical advice; three anonymous reviewers for helpful comments, and the Australian Research Council for funding. This research was conducted under the approval of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (G09/30054.1) and ANU Animal Experimentation Ethics Committee (F.BTZ.41.10).

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Correspondence to Christopher J. Fulton.

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Communicated by Biology Editor Dr. Glenn Richard Almany

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Noble, M.M., Pratchett, M.S., Coker, D.J. et al. Foraging in corallivorous butterflyfish varies with wave exposure. Coral Reefs 33, 351–361 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00338-014-1140-7

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s00338-014-1140-7

Keywords

  • Feeding
  • Searching
  • Selectivity
  • Prey availability
  • Wave exposure