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Behavior Webs of Piscivores at Subtropical Live-Bottom Reefs

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Direct visual and acoustic observations at subtropical reefs off the southeast united states and northeast Gulf of mexico revealed a complex web of behavioral interactions within and between mid-water and demersal guilds of piscivorous fishes. While mixed-species groups of mid-water and demersal piscivores stalked and attacked common prey species independently, facilitative behaviors between mid-water and demersal piscivores were common in each region. In the latter case, prey reduced nearest neighbor distances and retreated toward the seafloor during predatory attacks by mid-water fishes. Demersal fishes subsequently attacked and consumed prey in these ephemeral high density patches. Aggregations of fishes in other trophic guilds, unassociated with predation events, modified movements of prey fishes and provided camouflage for piscivores that occurred within and along the periphery of those aggregations. Demersal piscivores often assumed the role of mid-water piscivores when the abundance of mid-water piscivores was low and when demersal piscivores were larger than mid-water species. Young-of-the-year great barracuda, Sphyraena barracuda (edwards, 1771), also assumed this role, generally when other piscivores were absent. Such behavioral interactions appear to be common in these communities. If predator-prey relationships are regularly facilitated by these types of mixed-species interactions, such facilitative behaviors may be important in terms of population processes (e.g., yielding increases in prey consumption with resultant increases in growth rate, and fecundity). A framework for testing such predictions provides a pathway for assessing the population consequences of such interactions.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: January 1, 2013

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  • The Bulletin of Marine Science is dedicated to the dissemination of high quality research from the world's oceans. All aspects of marine science are treated by the Bulletin of Marine Science, including papers in marine biology, biological oceanography, fisheries, marine affairs, applied marine physics, marine geology and geophysics, marine and atmospheric chemistry, and meteorology and physical oceanography.
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