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Diversity 2019, 11(3), 33;

The Distribution of Planktivorous Damselfishes (Pomacentridae) on the Great Barrier Reef and the Relative Influences of Habitat and Predation

Australian Institute of Marine Science, PMB 3 Townsville MC, Townsville, QLD 4810, Australia
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 7 January 2019 / Revised: 22 February 2019 / Accepted: 25 February 2019 / Published: 28 February 2019
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Planktivorous damselfishes (Pomacentridae) are diverse and abundant on the Great Barrier Reef (GBR), are important prey for commercially harvested coral trout (Plectropomus spp.) and their feeding mode plays a central role in transferring energy from the plankton to the reef. However, little is known about their distribution patterns throughout the GBR and how those patterns are influenced by predators and habitat despite increasing pressures on both. Here we quantify the distribution and abundance of GBR planktivorous damselfishes, then examine the role of coral trout and habitat in shaping their assemblages. The assemblage structure of planktivorous damselfishes varied across the continental shelf, yet their total abundances varied sub-regionally, dependent on differences in coral habitat. Latitudinal patterns were relatively weak. Damselfish assemblages generally retained characteristics of their sub-regional setting over 20 years and assemblage degradation was only associated with major coral losses. Damselfish numbers were not negatively influenced by top-down control from coral trout. Instead, numbers of coral trout and damselfishes were both positively associated with coral habitat and each other. Our findings suggest that a complexity of factors and interactions shape reef fish assemblages and reinforce the fundamental importance of coral as the foundation of healthy reef communities. View Full-Text
Keywords: Great Barrier Reef; damselfishes; habitat; predation; planktivory Great Barrier Reef; damselfishes; habitat; predation; planktivory

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Emslie, M.J.; Logan, M.; Cheal, A.J. The Distribution of Planktivorous Damselfishes (Pomacentridae) on the Great Barrier Reef and the Relative Influences of Habitat and Predation. Diversity 2019, 11, 33.

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