Algal Garden Cultivation and Guarding Behavior of Dusky Damselfish on Coral Rubble and Intact Reef in Dry Tortugas National Park

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Algal Garden Cultivation and Guarding Behavior of Dusky Damselfish on Coral Rubble and Intact Reef in Dry Tortugas National Park

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Title: Algal Garden Cultivation and Guarding Behavior of Dusky Damselfish on Coral Rubble and Intact Reef in Dry Tortugas National Park
Author: Di Santo, V; Pomory, CM; Bennett, WA
Abstract: In the past 30 years, cold events and disease have reduced branching coral reefs in Dry Tortugas National Park, USA to rubble fields. Damselfish constituted the main source of herbivory in branching coral habitat, but it is unclear how the equilibrium between territoriality and grazing resources has been affected by habitat change. In this study, the agonistic behavior and algal garden farming of dusky damselfish (Stegastes adustus) was compared between coral rubble and patch reef territories. Underwater observations showed no significant difference in mean numbers of antagonistic grazers entering both rubble and patch territories (p=0.12); however dusky damselfish showed a more conspicuous aggressive strategy in rubble territories (p=0.03). Gardens exhibited a clear higher species diversity (p=0.0001) in rubble (species=13) than in patch reef (species=7). It is plausible that dusky damselfish defending flat rubble territory are better able to detect possible intruders than damselfish guarding more complex patch reef. In a highly saturated living space, dusky damselfish successfully colonize live and dead coral areas and, while patch reef may offer a more concealed site, the newly created rubble fields represent bigger territories and the chance to cultivate a greater variety of algae.
Description: American Academy of Underwater Sciences (http://www.aaus.org/)
URI: http://archive.rubicon-foundation.org/10233
Date: 2009

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