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      Pair formation, home range, and spatial variation in density, size and social status in blotched foxface Siganus unimaculatus on an Okinawan coral reef

      PeerJ

      PeerJ Inc.

      Siganus unimaculatus, Rabbitfish, Size-assortative pairing, Overlapping territory, Ontogenetic habitat shift, Pair formation

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          Abstract

          The present study examined pair formation, spatial pattern of home range and spatial variation in density, size and social status of blotched foxface Siganus unimaculatus (family Siganidae) on an Okinawan coral reef. Of 32 pairs sampled for sexing, 31 (96.9%) were heterosexual and showed size-assortative pairing. Developed ovaries were found in April and July, whereas oocytes were immature in August, September and February. Heterosexual pairing was found in both reproductive and non-reproductive periods. Home range size tended to be positively related to fork length (FL). The degree of home range overlap for same size class pairs was smaller than that for different size class pairs. The intraspecific behavior when two pairs approached each other was categorized as ‘attack,’ ‘agonistic display’ and ‘no interactions,’ and the frequency of agonistic behaviors (“attack” or “agonistic display”) was significantly greater than “no interactions.” Underwater observations at a seagrass bed, a rocky reef flat and a sheltered reef slope revealed that the mean FL was significantly smaller at the sheltered reef slope (4–13 cm) than at the rocky reef flat (>13 cm). No individuals were found in the seagrass bed. Most individuals less than 6 cm FL were solitary, whereas most individuals over 7 cm FL were paired. Density was significantly greater on the sheltered reef slope than on the rocky reef flat.

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          Most cited references 40

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          Catastrophes, phase shifts, and large-scale degradation of a Caribbean coral reef.

          Many coral reefs have been degraded over the past two to three decades through a combination of human and natural disturbances. In Jamaica, the effects of overfishing, hurricane damage, and disease have combined to destroy most corals, whose abundance has declined from more than 50 percent in the late 1970s to less than 5 percent today. A dramatic phase shift has occurred, producing a system dominated by fleshy macroalgae (more than 90 percent cover). Immediate implementation of management procedures is necessary to avoid further catastrophic damage.
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            Phase shifts, herbivory, and the resilience of coral reefs to climate change.

            Many coral reefs worldwide have undergone phase shifts to alternate, degraded assemblages because of the combined effects of over-fishing, declining water quality, and the direct and indirect impacts of climate change. Here, we experimentally manipulated the density of large herbivorous fishes to test their influence on the resilience of coral assemblages in the aftermath of regional-scale bleaching in 1998, the largest coral mortality event recorded to date. The experiment was undertaken on the Great Barrier Reef, within a no-fishing reserve where coral abundances and diversity had been sharply reduced by bleaching. In control areas, where fishes were abundant, algal abundance remained low, whereas coral cover almost doubled (to 20%) over a 3 year period, primarily because of recruitment of species that had been locally extirpated by bleaching. In contrast, exclusion of large herbivorous fishes caused a dramatic explosion of macroalgae, which suppressed the fecundity, recruitment, and survival of corals. Consequently, management of fish stocks is a key component in preventing phase shifts and managing reef resilience. Importantly, local stewardship of fishing effort is a tractable goal for conservation of reefs, and this local action can also provide some insurance against larger-scale disturbances such as mass bleaching, which are impractical to manage directly.
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              Sleeping functional group drives coral-reef recovery.

              The world's coral reefs are in decline, with many exhibiting a phase shift from coral to macroalgal dominance . This change is often associated with habitat loss and overharvesting of herbivorous fishes, particularly parrotfishes and surgeonfishes . The challenge is to reverse this decline and enhance the resilience of coral-reef ecosystems . We demonstrate, by using a large-scale experimentally induced phase shift, that the rapid reversal from a macroalgal-dominated to a coral- and epilithic algal-dominated state was not a result of herbivory by parrotfishes or surgeonfishes. Surprisingly, phase-shift reversal was primarily driven by a single batfish species (Platax pinnatus), a fish previously regarded as an invertebrate feeder. The 43 herbivorous fishes in the local fauna played only a minor role, suggesting that biodiversity may not offer the protection we hoped for in complex ecosystems. Our findings highlight the dangers faced by coral reefs and other threatened complex ecosystems: Species or functional groups that prevent phase shifts may not be able to reverse phase shifts once they occur. Nevertheless, reversal is possible. The critical issue is to identify and protect those groups that underpin the resilience and regeneration of complex ecosystems.
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                Author and article information

                Contributors
                Journal
                PeerJ
                PeerJ
                PeerJ
                PeerJ
                PeerJ
                PeerJ Inc. (San Francisco, USA )
                2167-8359
                24 September 2015
                2015
                : 3
                Affiliations
                Research Center of Sub-tropical Fisheries, Seikai National Fisheries Research Institute, Fisheries Research Agency , Ishigaki, Okinawa, Japan
                Article
                1280
                10.7717/peerj.1280
                4586810
                © 2015 Nanami

                This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, reproduction and adaptation in any medium and for any purpose provided that it is properly attributed. For attribution, the original author(s), title, publication source (PeerJ) and either DOI or URL of the article must be cited.

                Funding
                Funded by: Okinawa Promotion
                This study was partly supported by the Japanese government subsidy-related Okinawa Promotion. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.
                Categories
                Animal Behavior
                Ecology
                Marine Biology

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