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Free Content Sound Production by a Coral Reef Fish (Pomacentrus partitus): Evidence for a Vocal, Territorial "Keep-Out" Signal

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The Chirp-sound, produced by males of the bicolor damselfish Pomacentrus partitus, plays an important role in influencing the behavior of conspecific females during the pre-spawning period. Evidence is provided here that the same sound possesses another function, i.e., it is a vocal, territorial "keep-out" signal. A field-study, conducted on a reef off southern Florida, showed that such sounds, when transmitted by an underwater loudspeaker from unguarded territories (residents removed), can inhibit territorial intrusion by neighboring male conspecifics for a significantly longer time than when such sounds are not transmitted from a territory. Evidence was also obtained that the visual presence of the resident was a more effective deterrent to intrusion, however, than sound-transmission. Finally, a significant relationship was found between the size of a given territory and the time of territory-intrusion by a neighboring conspecific male, suggesting that neighbors are aware of the resource-holding potential of territorial residents. A brief laboratory study also indicated that the Chirp-sounds of a resident were a more effective deterrent to territorial intrusion than Chirp-sounds of non-residents. Transmission of other sounds from unguarded territories, including random noise and feeding stridulations by residents and non-residents, showed no deterrent effect on territorial intrusion.

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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: July 1, 1997

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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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