Marine and Freshwater Research Marine and Freshwater Research Society
Advances in the aquatic sciences
RESEARCH ARTICLE

Habitat effects on home range and schooling behaviour in a herbivorous fish (Kyphosus bigibbus) revealed by acoustic tracking

R. D. Pillans A , R. C. Babcock A D , D. P. Thomson B , M. D. E. Haywood A , R. A. Downie C , M. A. Vanderklift B and W. A. Rochester A
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A CSIRO Marine and Atmospheric Research, GPO Box 2583, Brisbane, Qld 4001, Australia.

B CSIRO Marine and Atmospheric Research, Private Bag 5, Wembley, WA 6913, Australia.

C CSIRO Marine and Atmospheric Research, GPA Box 1538, Hobart, Tas. 7001, Australia.

D Corresponding author. Email: russ.babcock@csiro.au

Marine and Freshwater Research - https://doi.org/10.1071/MF16199
Submitted: 1 June 2016  Accepted: 26 October 2016   Published online: 1 February 2017

Abstract

Large mobile herbivorous fish that specialise in browsing large brown algae are particularly important on coral reefs because their activities mediate algal–coral competition. Despite this important ecological role, we have a poor understanding of the movement patterns of such large herbivorous fish, including Kyphosus bigibbus. Nineteen K. bigibbus captured near adjacent but distinct patch reefs were tagged with internal acoustic tags and their movements monitored for up to 20 months by an array of 60 acoustic receivers. Home-range estimates showed that movements of individuals from each patch reef encompassed different spatial extents and resulted in differences in habitat used by the two groups of fish. The average 50 and 95% kernel utilisation distribution for long-term resident fish was 0.27 ± 0.03 and 1.61 ± 0.30 km2 respectively, ranges that represent the largest values for a herbivorous coral reef fish recorded to date. There was a significantly higher degree of fidelity among fish from the same school, and to particular patch reefs, despite the proximity of the reefs and substantial overlap between schools of conspecifics. A coefficient of sociality was used on pairs of fish and showed that there was no evidence that individuals were consistently detected together when they were detected by receivers away from their home reef. The variability of movement patterns among individuals of K. bigibbus results in an increased niche footprint for this important browser, potentially increasing reef resilience.

Additional keywords: acoustic telemetry, algae, coral reef, herbivorous fish, marine protected area, movement, Ningaloo Reef.


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