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Functional Role of a Common Herbivore in Moorea, French Polynesia
Functional Role of a Common Herbivore in Moorea, French Polynesia
Submitted on 19 Jun 2016

Katrina Munsterman, Samantha Davis, Sally J. Holbrook, Russell J. Schmitt
Moorea Coral Reef LTER, UC Santa Barbara
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Poster Abstract
Understanding mechanisms that contribute to coral persistence is recognized as a high priority research topic. Herbivory is an important mechanism that prevents macroalgae from dominating disturbed coral reefs. In this study, we focused on the feeding ecology of herbivorous fish species in Moorea, French Polynesia. Using video recording and field assays, we analyzed the foraging behavior of common herbivores in the lagoon reef habitat. Our results show that 7 of 8 herbivorous fish species fit conventional Indo-Pacific functional group classifications, with the exception of the bullethead parrotfish, Chlorurus spilurus. Previous research has classified the bullethead as an excavator of epilithic turf algae, however our results show this species takes 40% of bites on macroalgae. Additional foraging observations of 134 individual bulletheads of various sizes suggest this species may be more of a generalist herbivore, consuming multiple species of macroalgae in addition to turf. Creating a selectivity index based on food availability and mass specific bite rates will confirm if the role of the bullethead can be context dependent on fish size, reef habitat, and benthic cover. As one of the most abundant herbivores in Moorea, the bullethead likely plays a major role in coral reef communities. The results of this study contribute to the understanding of how different functional groups drive community composition and function.Report abuse »
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