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Understanding of the links between coral reef ecosystems, the goods and services they provide to people, and the wellbeing of human societies.


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Examining the multi-scale dynamics of reefs, from population dynamics to macroevolution


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Coral Reef Studies

From 2005 to 2022, the main node of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies was headquartered at James Cook University in Townsville, Queensland (Australia)

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Influence of prey body characteristics and performance on predator selection


Thursday 28 June , 4.00pm ABSTRACT:

ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies Conference Room, JCU.
Tom Holmes, PhD Student, James Cook University

Predator-prey relationships are generally thought to be one of the major processes influencing the size of populations and the structure of ecological communities.  At the time of settlement to the reef environment, coral reef fishes differ in a number of characteristics that may influence their survival during such predatory encounters.  This study investigated the selective nature of predation by both a multi-species predator pool, and a single common predator (Pseudochromis fuscus), on the ambiguous reef fish, Pomacentrus amboinensis.  The study focused on the early post-settlement period of P. amboinensis, when mortality, and hence directional selection, is thought to be highest.  Experiments were conducted with respect to three prey characteristics (body size, body weight and burst swimming speed), known to exhibit high levels of variation at the time of settlement.  Settlement stage P. amboinensis were collected and used in simple predator choice trials conducted in aquaria (single predator experiment) and open patch reefs (multi-species experiment).  Each experiment manipulated the levels of a single characteristic only, while keeping others constant.  During trials involving a single P. fuscus, predators were found to be selective with respect to prey body size only, with larger sized individuals being selected significantly more often.  When exposed to a multi-species predator community, lighter prey individuals were found to survive significantly more often than their heavier counterparts.  The pattern of prey size-selection was reversed, with smaller individuals being selected more often, although this was not significant.  Our results suggest that during this early life stage, body size may be the most important prey characteristic influencing prey survival during predatory encounters with P. fuscus.  Differences in the selective nature observed in the multi-species community are thought to be a result of either; the presence of a number of predator species with differing selective profiles within the community, or the action of external environmental (e.g. water flow) or topographical (e.g. habitat complexity) factors influencing the relationships.


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