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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 605:165-171 (2018)  -  DOI:

Trophic plasticity in an obligate corallivorous butterflyfish

David A. Feary1,*, Andrew G. Bauman2, James Guest3, Andrew S. Hoey4

1MRAG Ltd, London W1J 5PN, UK
2Experimental Marine Ecology Laboratory, Department of Biological Science, National University of Singapore, 117543 Singapore
3School of Natural and Environmental Sciences, Newcastle University, Newcastle upon Tyne NE1 7RU, UK
4ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, James Cook University, Townsville, QLD 4811, Australia
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Changes in the abundance and/or taxonomic composition of corals are having direct impacts on the structure of reef fish assemblages, with those species that rely directly on live coral for food or shelter being most affected. Despite this, many specialist coral feeders persist on reefs where preferred coral taxa are rare. We examined feeding selectivity of the obligate corallivorous butterflyfish Chaetodon octofasciatus, a species known to feed predominantly on Acropora spp. corals, between a heavily urbanized coral reef system (Singapore) with low Acropora spp. cover, and a relatively intact reef system containing high Acropora spp. cover (Pulau Tioman, eastern Peninsular Malaysia). Both reef systems supported similar densities of C. octofasciatus, with live coral dominating the diet in both locations. In Pulau Tioman, C. octofasciatus fed on 14 genera, (27.45% of available coral genera), with over a third of bites on Acropora spp. In contrast, C. octofasciatus on Singaporean reefs fed on 26 genera (45% of available coral genera), with only 4% of bites on Acropora spp. Despite specialist corallivores being viewed as highly susceptible to reductions in their preferred dietary coral taxa, this research highlights the potential importance of diet plasticity in sustaining populations.

KEY WORDS: Coral reef · Corallivore · Chaetodon octofasciatus · Feeding · Plasticity · Acropora · Behaviour

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Cite this article as: Feary DA, Bauman AG, Guest J, Hoey AS (2018) Trophic plasticity in an obligate corallivorous butterflyfish. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 605:165-171.

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