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MEPS 664:165-182 (2021)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/meps13654

Ontogenetic shifts in home range size of a top predatory reef-associated fish (Caranx ignobilis): implications for conservation

R. Daly1,2,*, J. D. Filmalter2, L. R. Peel3,4,5, B. Q. Mann1, J. S. E. Lea6,7, C. R. Clarke8, P. D. Cowley2,9

1Oceanographic Research Institute, PO Box 10712, Marine Parade, Durban 4056, South Africa
2South African Institute for Aquatic Biodiversity (SAIAB), Private Bag 1015, Makhanda 6140, South Africa
3School of Biological Sciences, The Oceans Institute and The Oceans Graduate School, The University of Western Australia, Crawley, Western Australia 6009, Australia
4The Australian Institute of Marine Science, Crawley, Western Australia 6009, Australia
5The Manta Trust, Catemwood House, Norwood Lane, Corscombe DT2 0NT, UK
6Department of Zoology, University of Cambridge, Cambridge CB2 1TN, UK
7Save Our Seas Foundation - D’Arros Research Centre (SOSF-DRC), D’Arros Island, Amirante Island Group, Outer Islands, Seychelles
8Marine Research Facility, PO Box 10646, Jeddah 21443, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
9Department of Ichthyology and Fisheries Science, Rhodes University, Makhanda 6140, South Africa
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Defining the home range of vulnerable species is critical for designing effective spatial management strategies. However, animal home ranges often change with ontogeny, and quantifying the associated temporal and spatial changes is particularly challenging for mobile marine species. Here, we investigated how the space use of a top predatory reef-associated fish (giant trevally Caranx ignobilis) scales with body size. Fish were tagged with acoustic transmitters and passively tracked for >3 yr at a tropical island and atoll in the Republic of Seychelles. A sheltered atoll environment was critical for juvenile fish (<60 cm fork length, FL) that exhibited a shift in home range location and area as they matured into adults. Small (60-100 cm FL) and large (>100 cm FL) adult fish appeared to favour shallow coral reefs and associated reef drop offs whilst sharing a similar core home range location. Large adult fish utilized a greater diversity of habitat types and had significantly (p < 0.05) greater annual dispersal distances (mean = 35.29 km, max = 91.32 km) than small adults (mean = 13.72 km, max = 21.55 km). Additionally, the home range of large adults (mean = 209.74 km2) was significantly (p < 0.05) larger than that of juveniles (mean = 38.73 km2) and small adults (77.32 km2) and there was a significant (p = 0.02) relationship between fish length and home range size. Furthermore, tagged fish took up to 34 mo (mean = 18.54 mo) to utilize the full extent of their home range. The habitat shift and expansion in home range size throughout ontogeny should be taken into account when designing effective spatial management plans for C. ignobilis.


KEY WORDS: Giant trevally · Body size · Spatial management · Marine protected area · Acoustic telemetry · Western Indian Ocean · Seychelles · Fisheries management


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Cite this article as: Daly R, Filmalter JD, Peel LR, Mann BQ, Lea JSE, Clarke CR, Cowley PD (2021) Ontogenetic shifts in home range size of a top predatory reef-associated fish (Caranx ignobilis): implications for conservation. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 664:165-182. https://doi.org/10.3354/meps13654

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