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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 461:151-163 (2012)  -  DOI:

Ecological versatility and its importance for the distribution and abundance of coral reef wrasses

Charlotte Berkström1,2,*, Geoffrey P. Jones1, Mark I. McCormick1, Maya Srinivasan1

1ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, and School of Marine and Tropical Biology, James Cook University, Townsville, Queensland 4811, Australia
2Present address: Department of Systems Ecology, Stockholm University, 106 91 Stockholm, Sweden

ABSTRACT: Ecological versatility, the degree to which organisms fully exploit the available resources, is an important component of ecological and evolutionary theory. However, patterns and consequences of versatility in coral reef fish have received little attention. Using a comparative approach, this study tested the consequences of ecological versatility on the distribution and abundance of juvenile wrasses (family: Labridae) in Kimbe Bay, Papua New Guinea. Resource use was examined along 4 different resource axes (horizontal distribution or reef zone, vertical distribution or depth, microhabitat and diet). Stepwise multiple regressions were used to test for relationships between niche breadth and patterns of abundance and distribution. Most exhibited a degree of apparent specialisation on at least one resource, but none were specialised along all resource axes. In terms of juvenile diet, the majority of species exhibited a high reliance on harpacticoid copepods. Microhabitat specialisation was associated with low local abundance and narrow distribution among depth zones. However, diet and macrohabitat specialisation were poor predictors of local abundance, and no relationships between local abundance, and local and regional distribution were observed. We conclude that the relationship between versatility and abundance/distribution is dependent on the resource in question. A greater understanding of the degree of ecological versatility in relation to different resources is necessary to predict how reef fishes will respond to escalating human impacts on coral reefs.

KEY WORDS: Coral reef fish · Depth distribution · Diet · Habitat use · Harpacticoid copepods · Specialisation · Labridae

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Cite this article as: Berkström C, Jones GP, McCormick MI, Srinivasan M (2012) Ecological versatility and its importance for the distribution and abundance of coral reef wrasses. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 461:151-163.

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