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Movement in a large predatory fish: coral trout, Plectropomus leopardus (Pisces: Serranidae), on Heron Reef, Australia


 Movement by the larger more mobile species of coral reef fish plays a significant role in determining patterns in abundance and population structure. Fish movement is also relevant to the use and effectiveness of marine reserves in managing fish populations. Coral trout are large piscivorous serranids supporting major fisheries on the Great Barrier Reef (GBR). This study reports on the within-reef movement of the common coral trout, Plectropomus leopardus, at Heron Reef, southern GBR, over a twelve month period, investigated by tagging and underwater tracking. Tracking of coral trout revealed no apparent relationship between the area moved and stage of tide or time of day. However, movement areas were affected by the size of fish: in spring a linear relationship between fish size and area of movement was measured, but in summer the largest (male) fish moved over significantly smaller areas than medium-sized fish. Movement of males may be related to cleaning behaviour and spawning. Fifty nine percent (n=101) of the tagged fish were resighted over periods of 4–5 months, in “home sites” measuring ∼2000 m2. Coral trout were not restricted to home sites, but moved on average 2 km along the reef slope; maximum distances of 7–7.5 km were measured. Coral trout appear to range as mobile, opportunistic predators, but also maintain home sites for access to shelter and cleaning stations.

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Accepted: 1 August 1996

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Samoilys, M. Movement in a large predatory fish: coral trout, Plectropomus leopardus (Pisces: Serranidae), on Heron Reef, Australia. Coral Reefs 16, 151–158 (1997).

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  • Coral Reef
  • Home Range
  • Great Barrier Reef
  • Home Range Size
  • Reef Slope