Skip to main content Accessibility help

Foraging activity of roving herbivorous reef fish (Acanthuridae and Scaridae) in eastern Brazil: influence of resource availability and interference competition

  • Ronaldo Bastos Francini-Filho (a1) (a2), Camilo Moitinho Ferreira (a3), Ericka Oliveira Cavalcanti Coni (a3), Rodrigo Leão De Moura (a2) and Les Kaufman (a4)...


Foraging activity of roving herbivorous reef fish (RHs) from families Acanthuridae (surgeonfish; three species) and Scaridae (parrotfish; five species), and its relationship to resource availability and interference competition, was studied in the largest South Atlantic Reef complex (Abrolhos Bank, eastern Brazil). Observations were undertaken at four sites differing in resource availability and competitors' abundance (i.e. RHs and territorial herbivores from genus Stegastes). Turf algae (TA) were selected by most species in most sites, while other food items were generally avoided. Surgeonfish had higher feeding rates than parrotfish, the former grazing more frequently on fleshy algae (FA) and the latter on crustose calcareous algae (CCA). Both surgeonfish and parrotfish interacted agonistically most frequently with damselfish, followed by confamilial interactions. Despite these consistent patterns, feeding rates, food selection and frequency of agonistic interactions differed significantly between sites for most species. Bite rates on CCA and FA were disproportionally higher in sites where such items were more available, leading to significant spatial variation in grazing selectivity (i.e. positive rather than negative selection of CCA and ‘lower avoidance’ of FA). Although agonistic interactions were more frequent at sites where herbivorous fish (both roving and territorial) were most abundant, there was no clear relationship between interference competition and foraging patterns. These results indicate that the scarcity of other food may induce RHs to consume the dominant resources. They also support the hypotheses that RHs are unable to clear large tracts of reef surface of FA once these have proliferated, and that territorial herbivores do not limit the access of RHs to particular resources.


Corresponding author

Correspondence should be addressed to: R.B. Francini-Filho, Departamento de Biologia Centro de Ciências Biológicas e da Saúde, Universidade Estadual da Paraíba, Avenida das Baraúnas 351, 58109-753 Campina Grande, PB, Brazil email:


Hide All
Adey, W.H., Adey, P.J., Burke, R. and Kaufman, L.S. (1977) The Holocene reefs of eastern Martinique, French West Indies. Atoll Research Bulletin 218, 140.
Bellwood, D.R. and Choat, J.H. (1990) A functional analysis of grazing in parrotfish (family Scaridae): the ecological implications. Environmental Biology of Fishes 28, 189214.
Bellwood, D.R., Hoey, A.S. and Choat, J.H. (2003) Limited functional redundancy in high diversity systems: resilience and ecosystem function on coral reefs. Ecology Letters 6, 281285.
Bellwood, D.R., Hughes, T.P., Folke, C. and Nÿstrom, M. (2004) Confronting the coral reef crisis. Nature 429, 827833.
Bellwood, D.R., Hughes, T.P. and Hoey, A.S. (2006) Sleeping functional group drives coral reef recovery. Current Biology 16, 24342439.
Bonaldo, R.M. and Bellwood, D.R. (2008) Size-dependent variation in the functional role of the parrotfish Scarus rivulatus on the Great Barrier Reef, Australia. Marine Ecology Progress Series 360, 237244.
Bonaldo, R.M., Krajewski, J.P., Sazima, C. and Sazima, I. (2005) Foraging activity and resource use by three parrotfish species at Fernando de Noronha Archipelago, tropical West Atlantic. Marine Biology 149, 423433.
Bruggemann, J.H., Kuyper, M.W.M. and Breeman, A.M. (1994a) Comparative analysis of foraging and habitat use by the sympatric Caribbean parrotfish Scarus vetula and Sparisoma viride (Scaridae). Marine Ecology Progress Series 112, 5166.
Bruggemann, J.H., Oppen, M.J.H. van and Breeman, A.M. (1994b) Foraging by the stoplight parrotfish, Sparisoma viride. 1. Food selection in different, socially determined habitats. Marine Ecology Progress Series 106, 4155.
Bruno, J.F. and Selig, E.R. (2007) Regional decline of coral cover in the Indo-Pacific: timing, extent, and subregional comparisons. PLoS One 2, 18.
Ceccarelli, D.M., Hughes, T.P. and McCook, L.J. (2006) Impacts of simulated overfishing on the territoriality of coral reef damselfish. Marine Ecology Progress Series 309, 255262.
Ceccarelli, D.M., Jones, G.P. and McCook, L.J. (2001) Territorial damselfishes as determinants of the structure of benthic communities on coral reefs. Oceanography and Marine Biology: an Annual Review 39, 355389.
Ceccarelli, D.M., Jones, G.P. and McCook, L.J. (2005) Foragers versus farmers: contrasting effects of two behavioural groups of herbivores on coral reefs. Oecologia 145, 445453.
Choat, J.H., Clements, K.D. and Robbins, W.D. (2002) The trophic status of herbivorous fishes on coral reefs. I. Diet analyses. Marine Biology 140, 613623.
Choat, J.H., Clements, K.D. and Robbins, W.D. (2004) The trophic status of herbivorous fishes on coral reefs. II. Food processing modes and trophodynamics. Marine Biology 145, 445454.
Clarke, K.R. and Warwick, R.M. (1994) Change in marine communities: an approach to statistical analysis and interpretation. Plymouth: Plymouth Marine Laboratory.
Crossman, D.J., Choat, J.H. and Clements, K.D. (2005) Nutritional ecology of nominally herbivorous fishes on coral reefs. Marine Ecology Progress Series 296, 129142.
Dias, T., Rosa, I.L. and Feitoza, B.M. (2001) Food resource and habitat sharing by the three western South Atlantic surgeonfishes (Teleostei: Acanthuridae: Acanthurus) off Paraiba Coast, northeastern Brazil. Aqua Journal of Ichthyology and Aquatic Biology 5, 110.
Edmunds, P.J. and Carpenter, R.C. (2001) Recovery of Diadema antillarum reduces macroalgal cover and increases abundance of juvenile corals on a Caribbean reef. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 98, 50675071.
Ferreira, C.E.L. and Gonçalves, E.A. (2006) Community structure and diet of roving herbivorous reef fishes in the Abrolhos Archipelago, south-western Atlantic. Journal of Fish Biology 69, 15331551.
Fox, R.J. and Bellwood, D.R. (2007) Quantifying herbivory across a coral reef depth gradient. Marine Ecology Progress Series 339, 4959.
Francini-Filho, R.B. and Moura, R.L. (2008) Dynamics of fish assemblages on coral reefs subjected to different management regimes in the Abrolhos Bank, eastern Brazil. Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems 18, 11661179.
Francini-Filho, R.B., Moura, R.L., Ferreira, C.M. and Coni, E.O.C. (2008a) Live coral predation by parrotfishes (Perciformes: Scaridae) in the Abrolhos Bank, eastern Brazil, with comments on the classification of species into functional groups. Neotropical Ichthyology 6, 191200.
Francini-Filho, R.B., Moura, R.L., Thompson, F.L., Reis, R.D., Kaufman, L., Kikuchi, R.K.P. and Leão, Z.M.A.N. (2008b) Diseases leading to accelerated decline of reef corals in the largest South Atlantic reef complex (Abrolhos Bank, eastern Brazil). Marine Pollution Bulletin 56, 10081014.
Gardner, T.A., Côté, I.M. and Gill, J.A. (2003) Long-term region-wide declines in Caribbean corals. Science 301, 958960.
Gasparini, J.L., Floeter, S.R. and Joyeux, J.C. (2004) Sparisoma tuiupiranga, a new species of parrotfish (Perciformes: Labroidae: Scaridae) from Brazil, with comments on the evolution of the genus. Zootaxa 384, 114.
Hay, M.E. (1991) Fish–seaweed interactions on coral reefs: effects of herbivorous fishes and adaptations of their prey. In Sale, P.F. (ed.) The ecology of fishes on coral reefs. San Diego: Academic Press, pp. 96119.
Hay, M.E. (1997) The ecology and evolution of seaweed–herbivore interactions on coral reefs. Coral Reefs 16, 6776.
Hixon, M.A. and Brostoff, W.N. (1996) Succession and herbivory: effects of differential fish grazing on Hawaiian coral-reef algae. Ecological Monographs 66, 6790.
Hoey, A.S. and Bellwood, D.R. (2008) Cross-shelf variation in the role of parrotfishes on the Great Barrier Reef. Coral Reefs 27, 3747.
Horn, M.H. (1989) Biology of marine herbivorous fishes. Oceanography and Marine Biology: an Annual Review 27, 167272.
Hughes, T.P., Rodrigues, M.J., Bellwood, D.R., Ceccarelli, D., Hoegh-Guldberg, O., McCook, L., Moltschaniwskyj, N., Pratchett, M.S., Steneck, R.S. and Willis, B. (2007) Phase shifts, herbivory, and the resilience of coral reefs to climate change. Current Biology 17, 360365.
Ivlev, V.S. (1961) Experimental ecology of the feeding of fishes. New Haven: Yale University Press.
Klumpp, D.W. and McKinnon, A.D. (1992) Community structure, biomass and productivity of epilithic algal communities on the Great Barrier Reef: dynamics at different spatial scales. Marine Ecology Progress Series 86, 7789.
Klumpp, D.W., McKinnon, D. and Daniel, P. (1987) Damselfish territories: zones of high productivity on coral reefs. Marine Ecology Progress Series 40, 4151.
Kohler, K.E. and Gill, S.M. (2006) Coral Point Count with Excel extensions (CPCe): a Visual Basic program for the determination of coral and substrate coverage using random point count methodology. Computers and Geosciences 32, 12591269.
Leão, Z.M.A.N. and Kikuchi, R.K.P. (2001) The Abrolhos Reefs of Brazil. In Seeliger, U. and Kjerfve, B. (eds) Coastal marine ecosystems of Latin America. Berlin: Springer-Verlag, pp. 8396.
Ledlie, M.H., Graham, N.A.J., Bythell, J.C., Wilson, S.K., Jennings, S., Polunin, N.V.C. and Hardcastle, J. (2007) Phase shifts and the role of herbivory in the resilience of coral reefs. Coral Reefs 26, 641653.
McClanahan, T.R. (1997) Primary succession of coral-reef algae: differing patterns on fished versus unfished reefs. Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology 218, 77102.
McCook, L.J., Jompa, J. and Diaz-Pulido, G. (2001) Competition between corals and algae on coral reefs: a review of evidence and mechanisms. Coral Reefs 19, 400417.
McCook, L.J. and Price, I.R. (1997) Macroalgal distributions on the Great Barrier Reef: a review of patterns and causes. In Proceedings of the Great Barrier Reef: science, use and management, a national conference, Townsville, pp. 3746.
Minte-Vera, C.V., Moura, R.L. and Francini-Filho, R.B. (2008) Nested sampling: an improved visual-census technique for studying reef fish assemblages. Marine Ecology Progress Series 367, 283293.
Moura, R.L., Figueiredo, J.L. and Sazima, I. (2001) A new parrotfish (Scaridae) from Brazil, and revalidation of Sparisoma amplum (Ranzani, 1842), Sparisoma frondosum (Agassiz, 1831), Sparisoma axillare (Steindachner, 1878) and Scarus trispinosus Valenciennes, 1840. Bulletin of Marine Science 68, 505524.
Moura, R.L. and Francini-Filho, R.B. (2006) Reef and shore fishes of the Abrolhos region, Brazil. In Dutra, G.F. et al. (eds) A rapid marine biodiversity assessment of the Abrolhos Bank, Bahia, Brazil. Washington DC: Conservation International, pp. 4055. [RAP Bulletin of Biological Assessment no. 38.]
Mumby, P.J. (2006) The impact of exploiting grazers (Scaridae) on the dynamics of Caribbean coral reefs. Ecological Applications 16, 747769.
Nugues, M.M., Smith, G.W., Van Hooindonk, R.J., Seabra, M.I. and Bak, R.P.M. (2004) Algal contact as a trigger for coral disease. Ecology Letters 7, 919923.
Osório, R., Rosa, I.L. and Cabral, H. (2006) Territorial defence by the Brazilian damselfish Stegastes fuscus (Teleostei: Pomacentridae). Journal of Fish Biology 69, 233242.
Paddack, M.J., Cowen, R.K. and Sponaugle, S. (2006) Grazing pressure of herbivorous coral reef fishes on low coral-cover reefs. Corals Reefs 25, 461472.
Purcell, S.W. and Bellwood, D.R. (1993) A functional analysis of food procurement in two surgeonfish species, Acanthurus nigrofuscus and Ctenochaetus striatus (Acanthuridae). Environmental Biology of Fishes 37, 139159.
Randall, J.E. (1955) An analysis of the genera of surgeon fishes (Family Acanthuridae). Pacific Science 19, 359367.
Risk, A. (1998) The effects of interactions with reef residents on the settlement and subsequent persistence of ocean surgeonfish, Acanthurus bahianus. Environmental Biology of Fishes 51, 377389.
Robertson, D.R. and Gaines, S.D. (1986) Interference competition structures habitat use in a local assemblage of coral reef surgeonfishes. Ecology 67, 13721383.
Robertson, D.R., Karg, F., Moura, R.L., Victor, B.C. and Bernardi, G. (2006) Mechanisms of speciation and faunal enrichment in Atlantic parrotfishes. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 40, 795807.
Robertson, D.R., Polunin, N.V.C. and Leighton, K. (1979) The behavioural ecology of three Indian Ocean surgeonfishes (Acanthurus lineatus, A. leucosternon and Zebrasoma scopas): their feeding strategies and social mating systems. Environmental Biology of Fishes 4, 125170.
Robertson, D.R., Sweatman, H.P.A., Fletcher, E.A. and Cleland, M.G. (1976) Schooling as a mechanism for circumventing the territoriality of competitors. Ecology 57(6), 12081220.
Robertson, D.R. and Warner, R.R. (1978) Sexual patterns in the labroid fishes of the western Caribbean. II. The parrotfishes (Scaridae). Smithsonian Contributions to Zoology 255, 126.
Rotjan, R.D. and Lewis, S.A. (2008) Impact of coral predators on tropical reefs. Marine Ecology Progress Series 367, 7391.
Steneck, R.S. and Dethier, M.N. (1994) A functional group approach to the structure of algal-dominated communities. Oikos 69, 476498.
Streelman, J.T., Alfaro, M., Westneat, M.W., Bellwood, D.R. and Karl, S.A. (2002) Evolutionary history of the parrotfishes: biogeography, ecomorphology, and comparative diversity. Evolution 56, 961971.
Van Rooij, J.M., Videler, J.J. and Bruggemann, J.H. (1998) High biomass and production but low energy transfer efficiency of Caribbean parrotfish: implications for trophic models of corals reefs. Journal of Fish Biology 53, 154178.
Wilson, S.K., Bellwood, D.R., Choat, J.H. and Furnas, M.J. (2003) Detritus in the epilithic algal matrix and its use by coral reef fishes. Oceanography and Marine Biology: an Annual Review 41, 279309.
Zar, J.H. (1999) Biostatistical analysis, 4th edition. New Jersey: Prentice-Hall.


Foraging activity of roving herbivorous reef fish (Acanthuridae and Scaridae) in eastern Brazil: influence of resource availability and interference competition

  • Ronaldo Bastos Francini-Filho (a1) (a2), Camilo Moitinho Ferreira (a3), Ericka Oliveira Cavalcanti Coni (a3), Rodrigo Leão De Moura (a2) and Les Kaufman (a4)...


Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed