MEPS 563:197-210 (2017)  -  DOI:

Trophic niche and spatio-temporal changes in the feeding ecology of two sympatric species of coral trout (Plectropomus leopardus and P. laevis)

J. K. Matley1,*, A. J. Tobin1, C. A. Simpfendorfer1, A. T. Fisk2, M. R. Heupel1,3

1Centre for Sustainable Tropical Fisheries and Aquaculture & College of Science and Engineering, James Cook University, Townsville, Qld 4811, Australia
2Great Lakes Institute for Environmental Research, University of Windsor, Windsor, ON N9B 3P4, Canada
3Australian Institute of Marine Science, PMB No 3, Townsville, Qld 4810, Australia
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Prey selection can influence interactions among species, the composition and abundance of prey, and ultimately the movement of energy within the ecosystem. Different species of the exploited coral trout Plectropomus spp. often co-occur in reef environments, but their foraging behaviour and ecological niches are largely unknown. To explore niche overlap and resource use of sympatric adult coral trout, stable isotopes (δ13C and δ15N) were quantified for 3 tissues (muscle, red blood cells, and plasma) collected between August 2013 and February 2014 from P. leopardus (n = 117) and P. laevis (n = 36) at 4 reefs in eastern Australia. Bayesian standard ellipses were used to show that prey selection of P. leopardus varied considerably from P. laevis, particularly from P. laevis in the blue-spot colour phase. Size of adult individuals had little influence on δ13C and δ15N values for P. leopardus and both footballer and blue-spot colour phases of P. laevis. Spatio-temporal comparisons of P. leopardus trophic positions, made by adjusting baseline algae and planktonic δ15N at each reef and sampling period, demonstrated that trophic positions varied in time and space, and warrants further investigation. This study highlights that sympatric species of coral trout have distinct ecological roles and will likely react differently to environmental disturbances and/or changes in habitat or prey composition.

KEY WORDS: Trophic position · Resource use · Niche partitioning · Stable isotopes · Competition · Fisheries · Foraging

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Cite this article as: Matley JK, Tobin AJ, Simpfendorfer CA, Fisk AT, Heupel MR (2017) Trophic niche and spatio-temporal changes in the feeding ecology of two sympatric species of coral trout (Plectropomus leopardus and P. laevis). Mar Ecol Prog Ser 563:197-210.

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