MEPS 367:73-91 (2008)  -  doi:10.3354/meps07531

Impact of coral predators on tropical reefs

Randi D. Rotjan1,2,*, Sara M. Lewis1

1Department of Biology, Tufts University, Medford, Massachusetts 02155, USA
2Present address: Organismic and Evolutionary Biology, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02138, USA

ABSTRACT: It is well known that herbivores have numerous and diverse impacts on plant and algal fitness, community structure and ecosystem function. The importance of corallivory as a selective force, however, has been underestimated. Corallivores, or consumers of live coral tissue, employ a wide variety of feeding strategies and can be obligate or facultative coral feeders. Our literature review reveals a complex array of corallivores across the globe, represented by 11 families of fishes and 5 invertebrate phyla and totaling over 160 species known to consume scleractinian corals worldwide. Importantly, although these corallivores span a wide taxonomic range, we found that they have been reported to feed on relatively few genera of hard corals, specifically, on only 28 scleractinian genera worldwide. Damage by corallivores ranges from minor to lethal, but there is a growing body of evidence to support that even limited removal of tissue or skeletal structures has growth and/or fitness consequences for a scleractinian coral colony. In light of increasing reef stressors and diminishing coral populations, we suggest that the role of corallivores in reef trophodynamics is more complex than appreciated previously.

KEY WORDS: Coral reef resilience · Herbivory · Trophodynamics

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Cite this article as: Rotjan RD, Lewis SM (2008) Impact of coral predators on tropical reefs. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 367:73-91

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