Coral Reefs

, Volume 33, Issue 3, pp 625–636 | Cite as

Fish corallivory on a pocilloporid reef and experimental coral responses to predation

  • M. M. Palacios
  • C. G. Muñoz
  • F. A. Zapata


This study examined the effects of the Guineafowl pufferfish (Arothron meleagris), a major corallivore in the Eastern Pacific, on pocilloporid corals on a reef at Gorgona Island, Colombia. Pufferfish occurred at a density of 171.2 individuals ha−1 and fed at a rate of 1.8 bites min−1, which produced a standing bite density of 366.2 bites m−2. We estimate that approximately 15.6 % of the annual pocilloporid carbonate production is removed by the pufferfish population. Examination of the predation effect on individual pocilloporid colonies revealed that although nubbins exposed to corallivory had lower linear growth, they gained similar weight and became thicker than those protected from it. Additionally, colonies with simulated predation injuries (on up to 75 % of branch tips) healed successfully and maintained growth rates similar to those of uninjured colonies. Despite the high corallivore pressure exerted by pufferfish on this reef, we conclude that they have a low destructive impact on Pocillopora colonies as corals can maintain their carbonate production rate while effectively recovering from partial predation. Due to its influence on colony morphology, pufferfish predation may increase environmentally induced morphological variability in Pocillopora.


Arothron meleagris Corallivory Reef fishes Guineafowl pufferfish Pocillopora spp. Tropical Eastern Pacific 



Financial support for this study was provided by Universidad del Valle and the Administrative Department of Science, Technology and Innovation of Colombia (Colciencias) through a Young Researcher and Innovator Program award (“Virginia Gutiérrez de Pineda”) to M.M. Palacios, a scholarship for doctoral studies awarded to C.G. Muñoz and a research Grant (1106-489-25135) awarded to F.A. Zapata. We are grateful to UAESPNN (Colombian National Parks) for providing logistical support at Gorgona Island and to members of the Coral Reef Ecology Research Group at Universidad del Valle, mainly Luis David Lizcano and Ana Lucía Castrillón, for their help during field work. We also thank D.P. Manzello and C.T. Perry for their comments regarding carbonate production by ramose corals. An earlier version of this manuscript was improved thanks to comments made by two anonymous reviewers and H. Sweatman.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • M. M. Palacios
    • 1
    • 2
  • C. G. Muñoz
    • 1
    • 3
  • F. A. Zapata
    • 1
  1. 1.Coral Reef Ecology Research Group, Department of BiologyUniversidad del ValleCaliColombia
  2. 2.School of Marine and Tropical BiologyJames Cook UniversityTownsvilleAustralia
  3. 3.Center of Excellence for Marine Sciences – CEMarinSanta MartaColombia

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