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Food choice in Siganus fuscescens: influence of macrophyte nutrient content and availability

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Using multiple‐choice feeding experiments, the selection of six species of macrophytes by the herbivorous rabbitfish Siganus fuscescens was examined. The rabbitfish showed distinct food choice in the laboratory; however, selection of macrophytes by S. fuscescens was not related to their absolute nutrient content (nitrogen, carbon, energy and ash free dry mass). Nutrient assimilation estimates showed that the macrophytes which were most preferred were those that S. fuscescens assimilated best. In S. fuscescens, the macrophytes that were preferred passed through the gut significantly faster than the less preferred species. Gut transit time had a significant effect on the absolute value of a food item in terms of net nutrient gain per unit time. This study showed that food value could be inferred from the absolute nutrient content of the macrophytes. Thus both the ability to assimilate nutrients as well as the absolute nutrient content of macrophytes must be quantified when assessing food value.
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Keywords: digestion; food choice; herbivory; macrophytes; nutrient assimilation

Document Type: Regular Paper

Affiliations: 1: School of Life Sciences and 2: Centre for Marine Studies, The University of Queensland, Brisbane, Queensland, 4072 Australia

Publication date: 2004-02-01

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