Effects of Grazing by the Yellowtail Surgeonfish, Prionurus Punctatus, on Algal Communities in the Gulf of California, Mexico
The yellowtail surgeonfish, Prionurus punctatus, regulates structure and composition of algal communities attached to several reefs off Punta Colorada, Baja California Sur, Mexico. The surgeonfish is, in general, a non-selective grazer that takes small, filamentous algae in a multi-species algal mat in the proportions that they occur. They do, however, exclude large brown (Dictyota, Padina, Sargassum) and red algae (Liagora) and a large, foliose bryozoan (Bugula) from the diet. Exclusion of brown algae meets predictions of digestibility based on carbohydrate chemistry; reasons for ignoring the red alga and bryozoan are unclear. Lightly grazed reefs have a high standing crop and heavily grazed reefs a low standing crop of large algae, even though these algae are not eaten by fishes. Non-selective grazing at high intensities precludes growth of disfavored algae to a size where they can be recognized and avoided. On lightly grazed reefs these algae attain a sufficient size for recognition and grow undisturbed. This intensifies grazing on the algal mat between tufts of large algae, produces a reduction in standing crops between tufts, and results in a refuge where delicate, edible algae grow to unusual size under the canopy of the large, tufted species.
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Document Type: Research Article
Publication date: 01 October 1980
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