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Fine-scale foraging behavior reveals differences in the functional roles of herbivorous reef fishes

Research output: Contribution to Journal/MagazineJournal articlepeer-review

<mark>Journal publication date</mark>31/05/2021
<mark>Journal</mark>Ecology and Evolution
Issue number9
Number of pages11
Pages (from-to)4898-4908
Publication StatusPublished
Early online date18/03/21
<mark>Original language</mark>English


Efforts to understand and protect ecosystem functioning have put considerable emphasis on classifying species according to the functions they perform. However, coarse classifications based on diet or feeding mode often oversimplify species' contributions to ecological processes. Behavioral variation among superficially similar species is easily missed but could indicate important differences in competitive interactions and the spatial scale at which species deliver their functions. To test the extent to which behavior can vary within existing functional classifications, we investigate the diversity of foraging movements in three herbivorous coral reef fishes across two functional groups. We find significant variation in foraging movements and spatial scales of operation between species, both within and across existing functional groups. Specifically, we show that movements and space use range from low frequency foraging bouts separated by short distances and tight turns across a small area, to high frequency, far-ranging forays separated by wide sweeping turns. Overall, we add to the burgeoning evidence that nuanced behavioral differences can underpin considerable complementarity within existing functional classifications, and that species assemblages may be considerably less redundant than previously thought.