Dietary shift in juvenile coral trout (Plectropomus maculatus) following coral reef degradation from a flood plume disturbance
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Acute environmental disturbances impact on habitat quality and resource availability, which can reverberate through trophic levels and become apparent in species’ dietary composition. In this study, we observed a distinct dietary shift of newly settled and juvenile coral trout (Plectropomus maculatus) following severe coral reef habitat degradation after a river flood plume affected the Keppel Islands, Australia. Hard coral cover declined by ~28 % in the 2 yr following the 2010–2011 floods, as did the abundance of young coral trout. Gut contents analysis revealed that diets had shifted from largely crustacean-based to non-preferred prey fishes following the disturbances. These results suggest that newly settled and juvenile coral trout modify their diet and foraging strategy in response to coral habitat degradation. This bottom-up effect of habitat degradation on the diet of a top coral reef predator may incur a metabolic cost, with subsequent effects on growth and survival.
KeywordsOntogeny Diet Floods Coral trout Plectropomus
We dedicate this work to our friend and colleague Glenn Almany who tragically passed away in March 2015 and thank the numerous volunteers who helped collect samples. This research was supported by Marine and Tropical Sciences Research Facility (MTSRF) and National Environment Research Program (NERP) Tropical Ecosystems Hub funding to GPJ.
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