Trophic ecology of the seagrass-inhabiting footballer demoiselle Chrysiptera annulata (Peters, 1855); comparison with three other reef-associated damselfishes

Gilles Lepoint, Loïc N. Michel, Eric Parmentier, Bruno Frédérich

Abstract


Many damselfishes (Pomacentridae) are herbivorous or omnivorous with an important contribution from different kinds of algae in their diet. They display different levels of territoriality and farming behavior, from almost non territorial to monoculture farmers. In addition, a few species inhabit seagrass meadows but, presently, none can be considered as seagrass-eating specialists. The footballer demoiselle, Chrysiptera annulata, is found in the seagrass meadows on the reef flat of the Great Reef of Toliara (Madagascar, Mozambique Channel). In the light of this unusual habitat for a pomacentrid, this study aimed to answer three questions: 1) What is the diet of C. annulata? 2) Do the resources supporting this diet include seagrass? 3) Does its trophic niche overlap those of other sympatric damselfishes (Pomacentrus trilineatus, Chrysiptera unimaculata and Plectroglyphidodon lacrymatus) living in close association with macrophytes or eating algae? Stomach content examination and stable isotope analysis showed that the footballer demoiselle is not a seagrass consumer but is an omnivorous/herbivorous species heavily relying on algal resources and small invertebrates. SIAR, a stable isotope mixing model, indicated it assimilated large amounts of turf algae, and various benthic or planktonic invertebrates in lower proportions. SIBER metrics revealed that the isotopic niche of the footballer demoiselle partly overlaps that of its congener, C. unimaculata, but not those of P. trilineatus and P. lacrymatus. Trophic strategies of C. annulata differed both from farming species such as P. lacrymatus and from less territorial herbivores such as P. trilineatus. Its seagrass meadow habitat on the Great Reef of Toliara allows the conquest of an unusual habitat for damselfishes and could limit competition with C. unimaculata, a species displaying the same territorial behavior and the same isotopic niche but living on the reef itself.

Keywords


herbivory; stable isotopes; coral reef; seagrass; trophic niches; Western Indian Ocean; SIAR; SIBER

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References


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DOI: https://doi.org/10.26496/bjz.2016.36

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