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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 717:143-156 (2023)  -  DOI:

Coral reef pinnacles act as ecological magnets for the abundance, diversity and biomass of predatory fishes

B. J. Cresswell1,2,*, G. F. Galbraith1,2, H. B. Harrison2,3, M. I. McCormick4, G. P. Jones1,2

1Marine Biology and Aquaculture, College of Science and Engineering, James Cook University, Townsville, Queensland 4811, Australia
2ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, James Cook University, Townsville, Queensland 4811, Australia
3School of Biological Sciences, Life Sciences Building, University of Bristol, Bristol BS8 1TQ, UK
4Coastal Marine Field Station, School of Science, University of Waikato, Tauranga 3110, New Zealand
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Predation is a key ecological process regulating the structure and diversity of biological communities, yet predators do not exist homogeneously in nature. Coral reefs possess diverse assemblages of predatory fishes, the distribution and abundance of which is well documented for coastal and emergent reefs. However, for remote, isolated and submerged reefs, such as those found on pinnacles and seamounts, our understanding of predatory fish communities is limited. These features are ubiquitous in the world’s oceans and frequently targeted by fishers for their presumed fish aggregation properties. Here we describe communities of predatory fishes on a series of pinnacle reefs and contrast these to regional coastal and offshore emergent reefs. Pinnacles supported 2-4× higher abundance, biomass and diversity of predatory fishes compared to emergent reefs. They also supported unique communities, with 32 out of the 63 predator species in our study found only on pinnacle reefs. For species found on all 3 reef types, all were most abundant on pinnacles and the 6 taxa driving differences in community structure were most abundant on pinnacles. Together, our results show that predatory fishes are strongly attracted to pinnacles, although the mechanisms are still unclear. Prioritising the selection of these small ecological magnets in conservation planning would be an effective approach to target the protection of regional reef fish biodiversity.

KEY WORDS: Pinnacle reefs · Predatory fishes · Ecological magnets · Biodiversity · Community ecology

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Cite this article as: Cresswell BJ, Galbraith GF, Harrison HB, McCormick MI, Jones GP (2023) Coral reef pinnacles act as ecological magnets for the abundance, diversity and biomass of predatory fishes. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 717:143-156.

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