Coral reef fish - Wikipedia
This month's mutualism is on the relationship between a farming damselfish and its garden of delicious algae. Geographic variation in the damselfish-red alga cultivation mutualism in the Indo- West Pacific. BMC Evolutionary Biology, ; (in press) [link]. findings reveal a previously unknown positive contribution of coral-dwelling fish to their host's photosynthesis. KEY WORDS: Dascyllus, Mutualism, Physiology.
For this manoeuvrability is more important than straight line speed, so coral reef fish have developed bodies which optimize their ability to dart and change direction. They outwit predators by dodging into fissures in the reef or playing hide and seek around coral heads.
Their pelvic and pectoral fins are designed differently, so they act together with the flattened body to optimise manoeuvrability. This is in marked contrasts to open water fishes which are usually countershaded with silvery colours. The patterns have different functions. Sometimes they camouflage the fish when the fish rests in places with the right background. Colouration can also be used to help species recognition during mating. Some unmistakable contrasting patterns are used to warn predators that the fish has venomous spines or poisonous flesh.
This spot is surrounded by a brilliant white ring, resembling an eyespot. A black vertical bar on the head runs through the true eye, making it hard to see.
The butterflyfish's first instinct when threatened is to flee, putting the false eyespot closer to the predator than the head. Most predators aim for the eyes, and this false eyespot tricks the predator into believing that the fish will flee tail first. When escape is not possible, the butterflyfish will sometimes turn to face its aggressor, head lowered and spines fully erect, like a bull about to charge.
This may serve to intimidate the other animal or may remind the predator that the butterflyfish is too spiny to make a comfortable meal. It feeds primarily on small crustaceans and other invertebrates, and is popular in the aquarium trade. Just as some prey species evolved cryptic colouration and patterns to help avoid predators, some ambush predators evolved camouflage that lets them ambush their prey.
The tassled scorpionfish is an ambush predator that looks like part of a sea floor encrusted with coral and algae. It lies in wait on the sea floor for crustaceans and small fish, such as gobies, to pass by. They lie on the bottom and wave a conspicuous worm-like lure strategically attached above their mouth.
They continually scan for predators with eyes that swivel independently. The camouflage of the tassled scorpionfish can prevent gobies from seeing them until it's too late. Its ventral lower surface has large, white spots on a dark background, and its dorsal upper surface has black spots on yellow. The brightly painted yellow mouth may deter potential predators. The frogfish is an ambush predator disguised to look like an algae-covered stone Another ambush predator is the tassled scorpionfish camouflaged to look like part of a coral encrusted sea floor.
Gobies are very cautious, yet they can fail to see a tassled scorpionfish until it is too late. Feeding strategies[ edit ] Many reef fish species have evolved different feeding strategies accompanied by specialized mouths, jaws and teeth particularly suited to deal with their primary food sources found in coral reef ecosystems. Some species even shift their dietary habits and distributions as they mature.
Their mouths protrude like forceps, and are equipped with fine teeth that allow them to nip off such exposed body parts of their prey. Parrotfishes eat algae growing on reef surfaces, utilizing mouths like beaks well adapted to scrape off their food.
Other fish, like snapperare generalized feeders with more standard jaw and mouth structures that allow them to forage on a wide range of animal prey types, including small fishes and invertebrates. Carnivores are the most diverse of feeding types among coral reef fishes. There are many more carnivore species on the reefs than herbivores. Competition among carnivores is intense, resulting in a treacherous environment for their prey. Hungry predators lurk in ambush or patrol every part of the reef, night and day.
These typically have large mouths that can be rapidly expanded, thereby drawing in nearby water and any unfortunate animals contained within the inhaled water mass. The water is then expelled through the gills with the mouth closed, thereby trapping the helpless prey  For example, the bluestripe snapper has a varied dietfeeding on fishesshrimpscrabsstomatopodscephalopods and planktonic crustaceansas well as plant and algae material.
Diet varies with age, location and the prevalent prey items locally. Like goats, they seek anything edible: The yellowfins change their colouration to match that of the snapper. Presumably this is for predator protection, since goatfish are a more preferred prey than bluestripe snapper.
By night the schools disperse and individual goatfish head their separate ways to loot the sands. Other nocturnal feeders shadow the active goatfish, waiting patiently for overlooked morsels. Moray eels and coral groupers Plectropomus pessuliferus are known to cooperate with each other when hunting.
If the final male disappears, changes to the largest female occur, with male behavior occurring within several hours and sperm production occurring within ten days. Bluestripe snapper will eat just about anything.
Yellowfin goatfish change their colouration so they can school with the blue-striped snapper. Coral grouper sometimes cooperate with giant morays in hunting.
Damselfish 'garden' algae | EurekAlert! Science News
Specialised carnivores[ edit ] Large schools of forage fishsuch as surgeonfish and cardinalfishmove around the reef feeding on tiny zooplankton. The forage fish are, in turn, eaten by larger fish, such as the bigeye trevally.
Fish receive many benefits from schooling behaviourincluding defence against predators through better predator detection, since each fish is on the lookout. Schooling fish have developed remarkable displays of precise choreography which confuse and evade predators. For this they have evolved special pressure sensors along their sides, called lateral linesthat let them feel each other's movements and stay synchronized. They are swift predators who patrol the reef in hunting packs.
When they find a school of forage fish, such as cardinalfish, they surround them and herd them close to the reef. This panics the prey fish, and their schooling becomes chaotic, leaving them open to attack by the trevally. Cardinalfish swim in schools for protection against trevally. Bigeye trevally hunt cardinalfish in packs and herd them against the reef. When the cardinalfish panic and break school formation, the trevally pick them off.
Porcupinefish inflate themselves by swallowing water or air, which restricts potential predators to those with bigger mouths. The titan triggerfish can move relatively large rocks when feeding and is often followed by smaller fishes that feed on leftovers.
They also use a jet of water to uncover sand dollars buried in sand. Barracuda are ferocious predators on other fishes, with razor-sharp conical teeth which make it easy for them to rip their prey to shreds. Barracuda patrol the outer reef in large schools, and are extremely fast swimmers with streamlined, torpedo-shaped bodies. They inflate their body by swallowing water, reducing potential predators to those with much bigger mouths.
External image Porcupinefish with cleaner wrasses Fish can not groom themselves. Some fish specialise as cleaner fishand establish cleaning stations where other fish can come to have their parasites nibbled away. The "resident fish doctor and dentist on the reef is the bluestreak cleaner wrasse ".
As the bluestreak snacks on the parasites it gently tickles its client. This seems to bring the larger fish back again for regular servicing. But other parasites find the mucus itself good to eat. So lizardfish visit the cleaner wrasse, which clean the parasites from the skin, gills and mouth.
Two small cleaner wrasses servicing a larger fish at a cleaning station The reef lizardfish secretes a mucus coating which reduces drag when they swim. But some parasites find the mucus good to eat. Herbivores[ edit ] Surgeonfish are among the most common of coral reef herbivoresoften feeding in shoals. This may be a mechanism for overwhelming the highly aggressive defence responses of small territorial damselfishes that vigorously guard small patches of algae on coral reefs.
The four largest groups of coral reef fishes that feed on plants are the parrotfishesdamselfishesrabbitfishesand surgeonfishes. All feed primarily on microscopic and macroscopic algae growing on or near coral reefs. Algae can drape reefs in kaleidoscopes of colours and shapes.
Algae are primary producerswhich means they are plants synthesising food directly from solar energy and carbon dioxide and other simple nutrient molecules. Without algae, everything on the reef would die. One important algal group, the bottom dwelling benthic algae, grows over dead coral and other inert surfaces, and provides grazing fields for herbivores such as parrotfish. They are large herbivores that graze on the algae that grows on hard dead corals.
Equipped with two pairs of crushing jaws and their beaks, they pulverize chunks of algae-coated coral, digesting the algae and excreting the coral as fine sand. They have evolved to find protection by schoolingsometimes with other species like shoaling rabbitfish. Spinefoot rabbitfish are named for their defensive venomous spines, and they are seldom attacked by predators. Spines are a last-ditch defence. It is better to avoid predator detection in the first place, and avoid being thrust into risky spine-to-fang battles.
So rabbitfish have also evolved skilful colour changing abilities. They are small, typically five centimetres two inches long. Many species are aggressive towards other fishes which also graze on algae, such as surgeonfish. Surgeonfish sometimes use schooling as a countermeasure to defensive attacks by solitary damselfish. Ferocious barracuda prey in schools on parrotfish. Coral rabbitfish have venomous spines which they erect if threatened.
Schooling spinefoot rabbitfish are often joined by defenceless parrotfish. Symbiosis[ edit ] A hawkfishsafely perched on Acroporasurveys its surroundings Symbiosis refers to two species that have a close relationship with each other. The relationship can be mutualisticwhen both species benefit from the relationship, commensalisticwhen one species benefits and the other is unaffected, and parasitisticwhen one species benefits, and the other is harmed.
An example of commensalism occurs between the hawkfish and fire coral. Thanks to their large, skinless pectoral fins, hawkfish can perch on fire corals without harm. Fire corals are not true coralsbut are hydrozoans possessing stinging cells called nematocysts which would normally prevent close contact. Do coral-reef fish faunas have a distinctive taxonomic structure?
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Damselfish 'garden' algae
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