Effects of coral bleaching on the feeding response of two species of coral-feeding fish
Cole, A.J., Pratchett, M.S., and Jones, G.P. (2009) Effects of coral bleaching on the feeding response of two species of coral-feeding fish. Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology, 373 . pp. 11-15.
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Coral bleaching is an increasingly prominent threat to coral reef ecosystems, not only to corals, but also to the many organisms that rely on coral for food and shelter. Coral-feeding fishes are negatively affected by coral loss caused by extensive bleaching, but it is unknown how feeding behaviour of most corallivorous fishes changes in response to coral bleaching. In this study, coral bleaching was experimentally induced in situ to examine the feeding response of two obligate corallivorous fish, Labrichthys unilineatus (Labridae) and Chaetodon baronessa (Chaetodontidae). Feeding rates were monitored before, during, and immediately after experimental bleaching of prey corals. L. unilineatus significantly increased its feeding on impacted corals during bleaching, but showed a steady decline in feeding once corals were fully bleached. Feeding response of L. unilineatus appears to parallel the expected stress-induced mucous production by bleaching colonies. In contrast, C. baronessa preferentially fed from healthy colonies over bleached colonies, although bleached colonies were consumed for five days following manipulation. Feeding by corallivorous fishes can play an important role in determining coral condition and mortality of corals following stress induced bleaching.
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