Territoriality of the omnivorous butterflyfish, Chaetodon auriga (Chaetodontidae)

Abstract

Butterflyfish research has focused on corallivorous species, with little attention paid to the other, equally abundant, omnivorous and planktivorous species. This study sought to explore the nature of ranging behaviour of the omnivorous butterflyfish, Chaetodon auriga, across two geographic regions. Pairs of C. auriga defended non-overlapping territories, ranging in area from 97.44 m2 to 2281.64 m2. Mean territory area varied among study sites while remaining consistent between geographic regions. Most of the variation in territory area was explained by variation in butterflyfish density, while damselfish density, total fish density, and percent sand cover inside territories were also correlated with territory area. Benthic assemblages of territories did not mirror study sites, suggesting that territory establishment is non-random. At all study sites, Chaetodon auriga exhibited significant selection in its patterns of habitat resource use. These results highlight the importance of research on generalist butterflyfishes as damage to coral reef ecosystems continues to threaten their specialist counterparts.

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Acknowledgements

I would like to thank A. Halford for the original concept for my Master’s thesis, from which this paper was derived, and for his support throughout the implementation of my thesis project. Field and logistic support were also provided by A. Marshell, M. Priest, and the University of Guam Marine Laboratory. This paper greatly benefited from the comments provided by T. Donaldson, A. Halford, A. Kerr, J. McIlwain, K. Moots, and two anonymous reviewers. This project was conducted with the approval of the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC), permit No. UOG0901, and represents a contribution of the University of Guam Marine Laboratory.

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Correspondence to Kirstie L. Rendall.

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Rendall, K.L. Territoriality of the omnivorous butterflyfish, Chaetodon auriga (Chaetodontidae). Environ Biol Fish 96, 961–969 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10641-012-0093-3

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Keywords

  • Butterflyfish
  • Chaetodon auriga
  • Territoriality
  • Fish density
  • Habitat