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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 730:79-93 (2024)  -  DOI:

Two ubiquitous parrotfishes exhibit distinct foraging ecologies on tropical Brazilian reefs

Ana Luisa P. Moreira1, Paulo R. de Medeiros2, Natalia C. Roos3,*

1FishLab, Department of Physiology and Behavior, Bioscience Center, Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Norte, RN 59078-970, Brazil
2Biology Department, Academic Unit of Natural and Exact Sciences, Universidade Federal de Campina Grande, PB 58429-900, Brazil
3Marine Ecology and Conservation Lab, Centre for Environmental Sciences, Universidade Federal do Sul da Bahia, Porto Seguro, BA 45810-000, Brazil
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Parrotfishes (Labridae: Scarinae) are common components of reef environments known to influence the early succession dynamics of benthic communities through their foraging behavior. In the southwestern Atlantic, the sparisomatine clade predominates over the scarinine when compared to the Caribbean, with the endemic species Sparisoma axillare and S. frondosum being the most abundant and widespread parrotfishes in the Brazilian Biogeographic Province. Given that the 2 species are similar in terms of occurrence and abundance, describing their levels of niche complementarity is challenging. Investigating basic ecological distinctions between species can aid in comprehending their habitat requirements and susceptibilities. This is particularly important in the case of S. axillare and S. frondosum, both of which are listed as Vulnerable by the Brazilian Red List of Endangered Species. Here, we assessed feeding rate, substrate selectivity, niche overlap, shoaling behavior and agonistic interactions during foraging activity of both species and comparatively between ontogenetic stages. We found that despite a high niche overlap, S. frondosum feeds on a wider range of substrate types and interacts more with other species while foraging compared to S. axillare. Dissimilarities in substrate selection by the 2 species were mainly represented by algal turfs and sand but an opposite pattern was detected: S. axillare preferentially selected the algal turfs and S. frondosum selected more sand. Although fine-scale resource partitioning has not been investigated, our results provide insights into niche complementarity between the 2 species and inferences on drivers that may help explain their distribution in the Brazilian reefs.

KEY WORDS: Sparisoma axillare · Sparisoma frondosum · Scarinae · Southwestern Atlantic · Endemics · Reef fish

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Cite this article as: Moreira ALP, de Medeiros PR, Roos NC (2024) Two ubiquitous parrotfishes exhibit distinct foraging ecologies on tropical Brazilian reefs. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 730:79-93.

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