Corallivory in the Eastern Pacific

  • Ian C. EnochsEmail author
  • Peter W. Glynn
Part of the Coral Reefs of the World book series (CORW, volume 8)


Eastern Pacific reef ecosystems are home to a diverse assemblage of corallivorous fishes and invertebrates. It is therefore not surprising that there is a rich history of research on corallivores in the eastern Pacific. In fact, much of what is known today on the topic of corallivory has built upon studies from the eastern Pacific region. Here we review the progression of our understanding of eastern Pacific corallivory and corallivores. We discuss the behavior and ecology of these specialized consumers, dividing our analysis into the larger conspicuous taxa such as the crown-of-thorns sea star (Acanthaster planci) and the guineafowl puffer (Arothron meleagris), as well as into the smaller cryptic species such as the pustulate egg shell (Jenneria pustulata) and coral crustacean guards (Trapezia spp., Alpheus lottini). The majority of species that consume coral tissues are facultative corallivores, feeding on corals only incidentally. Both the negative and positive interactions of corallivores to their prey/hosts are reviewed. We address detrimental direct consumption of coral and how it can ultimately influence growth form, species distributions, population structure, and the asexual reproduction of corals. We examine the cleaning behavior of some corallivorous species as well as their territorial tendencies, which may potentially lead to the exclusion of more lethal coral predators. Despite the high diversity of corallivore taxa, no population outbreaks have been observed in the eastern Pacific; coral colony growth rates and reef accretion proceed apace. Finally, we explore the far-reaching implications of the corallivore feeding strategy, touching on the connections that ultimately link coral biomass with higher trophic levels and the rest of the reef ecosystem.


Corallivory Acanthaster Arothron meleagris Food webs Coral mortality 



Thanks are due Michael J. Risk and Ellen R.M. Druffel for help with the radiometric dating. Aníbal Velarde performed and supervised the sorting of Acanthaster skeletal ossicles. G. Kolodziej provided help with manuscript preparation. We are grateful for information and editorial comments provided by T.M. Gosliner, M.M. Palacios, M.S. Pratchett, and an anonymous reviewer who helped to improve this chapter.


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© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Cooperative Institute of Marine and Atmospheric Studies, Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric ScienceUniversity of MiamiMiamiUSA
  2. 2.Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory (AOML), Ocean Chemistry and Ecosystem Division (OCED), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)MiamiUSA
  3. 3.Department of Marine Biology and Ecology, Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric ScienceUniversity of MiamiMiamiUSA

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