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The roving lives of reef fish

By Shane Graber - Posted Jun 19, 2012 11:00 AM
Have you ever wondered how far a particular reef fish might travel? Does it have a range or does it swim where ever it wants on the reef? A paper published this week in Coral Reefs examines those questions and more.
The roving lives of reef fish

Rivulated Parrotfish, Scarus rivulatus, taken at Myanmar-Mergui Archipel. Photo by divemecressi / Flickr.

In their paper "How far do schools of roving herbivores rove? A case study using Scarus rivulatus" scientists monitored the rivulated parrotfish (pictured above) to better understand its range and schooling behavior.

The rivulated parrotfish is schooling by nature and inhabits reefs in the western Pacific with adults reaching lengths of 16 inches. These fish are important herbivorous inhabitants of the reef and keep algal growth in check especially on the Great Barrier Reef in Australia.

The primary focus of the research was to understand their range and if the range is larger if the fish is within a school of other rivulated parrotfish.  The fish were monitored with acoustic equipment for seven months in Pioneer Bay, Orpheus Island, of the Great Barrier Reef.

It turns out that even while schooling these fish are very site specific. Whether in a school or by themselves they did not venture out of a range measuring 275 yards in length on a given stretch of reef. When schooling they had a slightly tighter range of only 240 yards in length.

Author: Shane Graber
Location: Indiana

Shane has kept saltwater tanks for the last 12 years, is a research scientist, lives in northern Indiana, and is a proud Advanced Aquarist staffer.


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