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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 134:59-71 (1996)  -  doi:10.3354/meps134059

Bioerosion and sediment ingestion by the Caribbean parrotfish Scarus vetula and Sparisoma viride: implications of fish size, feeding mode and habitat use

Bruggemann JH, van Kessel AM, van Rooij JM, Breeman AM

Erosion rates and sources of sediment ingested were quantified for the 2 most abundant parrotfish species on a leeward fringing reef of Bonaire, Netherlands Antilles: Scarus vetula and Sparisoma viride. Direct estimates of erosion by different size classes were obtained from daily feeding rates and grazing scar frequency, scar volume and substrate density. Foraging preference and distribution of fish on the reef were used to examine patterns of bioerosion at 2 spatial scales: reef zones and individual substrates used for grazing. Sediment mass ingested by fish provided an independent check on erosion rates, and was partitioned according to source. S. vetula, employing a scraping feeding mode, removed less material from grazed substrates than similar sized S. viride, which forages by excavating the substrate. Erosion rates increased strongly with fish size in both species. The (indigestible) carbonate derived from epilithic algae accounted for all sediment ingested by juvenile fish. In adult fish, the proportion of freshly eroded carbonate substrate ingested increased with fish size. The distribution of adults of these large scarids over different reef zones determines the rate of bioerosion on a large spatial scale. The highest bioerosional rates occur on the shallow reef (ca 7 kg m-2 yr-1), and they decrease with depth. Parrotfish foraging preferences, and the effects of food type and skeletal density of substrates on the size of the grazing scars, cause large differences in bioerosional rates on a small spatial scale. The highest rates of bioerosion occur on substrates infested with boring algae and of low skeletal density, while high-density substrates and substrates covered with crustose corallines undergo lower rates. Living coral is rarely eaten by scarids, and largely escapes erosion by grazing.

Coral reefs · Bioerosion rates · Scaridae · Skeletal density · Food type · Population density · Spatial variability

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