Navigation Links
Distressed damsels stress coral reefs

Damselfish are killing head corals and adding stress to Caribbean coral reefs, which are already in desperately poor condition from global climate change, coral diseases, hurricanes, pollution, and overfishing. Restoring threatened staghorn coral, the damsels' favorite homestead, will take the pressure off the other corals, according to a new study published in the online journal PLoS ONE.

The small, belligerently territorial, threespot damselfish kill portions of coral colonies to grow gardens of algae, which they use as grounds for feeding and nests for breeding. Marine scientists thought that overfishing groupers and snappers in the Caribbean released the threespot damselfish from their predators, allowing them to swarm over the reefs in larger numbers, killing more coral than ever before. That idea is wrong, says author Rich Aronson, a coral reef ecologist at the Florida Institute of Technology.

"Our surveys of reefs around the Caribbean show that the number of predatory fish is not the key to how many damselfish live on a reef," says Aronson. "It's all about real estateplaces to live." Until the 1980s, threespot damselfish tended their gardens in staghorn coral, at the time the most common coral in the Caribbean. Staghorn coral, named for its long, thin branches, grew very fast and could keep ahead of the damselfish onslaught. The threespots preferred staghorn above all other corals for its tangle of branches, which provided ideal places to hide, feed, and nest. Although the threespots bit and killed portions of staghorn colonies, the living branches that remained continued to thrive. But outbreaks of coral diseases, compounded by hurricanes and other environmental insults decimated populations of staghorn coral to the point that it is now listed as threatened under the U.S. Endangered Species Act.

Coauthor Les Kaufman is a fish biologist with Boston University and Conservation International. He explains, "Once staghorn coral disappeared, the fierce little beasts switched to killing slow-growing coral heads." Coral heads are a lot less desirable from the damsels' point of view because they have fewer hiding places. Unlike staghorn coral, head-corals cannot recover quickly enough to keep pace with the death-bites of threespot damselfish, so the coral heads could take hundreds of years to recover. "Threespot damselfish are limited primarily by habitat, " says Kaufman. "They have not been released by fishing to overpopulate reefs, and if anything they are less abundant now." The fossil record shows that threespots commonly exploited staghorn coral on Caribbean reefs for at least the last 125,000 yearslong before those reefs were fished. Adds Aronson, "Caribbean reefs changed fundamentally when staghorn coral suddenly disappeared after dominating for hundreds of thousands of years. Threespot damselfish are now killing slow-growing coral heads, much moreso than before and regardless of how many predators are around. We strongly advocate conserving fish stocks, but in this case restoring the staghorn populations will be far more effective in fixing the damage."


Contact: Dr. Richard B. Aronson
Florida Institute of Technology

Related biology news :

1. Children distressed by family fighting have higher stress hormones
2. Study sheds light on how marine animals survive stress
3. Feeling stressed? So is the poplar
4. Resilience factor low in depression, protects mice from stress
5. Feeling stressed? So is the poplar
6. Brain connections for stress -- lessons from the worm
7. Biological link between stress, anxiety and depression identified for the first time
8. New brain nerve cells key to stress resilience, UT Southwestern researchers find
9. Flavonoids in orange juice suppress oxidative stress from high-fat, high-carb meal
10. Researchers look at reducing yield loss for crops under stress
11. Rochester study connects workplace turmoil, stress and obesity
Post Your Comments:
(Date:11/11/2015)... Minn. , Nov. 11, 2015   MedNet Solutions ... entire spectrum of clinical research, is pleased to announce that ... in Clinical Trials (PCT) event, to be held November ... be able to view live demonstrations of iMedNet ... and learn how iMedNet has been able to ...
(Date:11/9/2015)... 9, 2015  Synaptics Inc. (NASDAQ: SYNA ), ... broader entry into the automotive market with a comprehensive ... pace of consumer electronics human interface innovation. Synaptics, industry-leading ... for the automotive industry and will be implemented in ... Europe , Japan , and ...
(Date:10/29/2015)... 29, 2015  The J. Craig Venter Institute (JCVI) ... Synthesis and Biosecurity: Lessons Learned and Options for the ... and Human Services guidance for synthetic biology providers has ... --> --> Synthetic biology ... potential to pose unique biosecurity threats. It now is ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:11/25/2015)... SAN DIEGO , Nov. 25, 2015  Neurocrine ... Kevin Gorman , President and CEO of Neurocrine ... Jaffray Healthcare Conference in New York ... encouraged to visit the website approximately 5 minutes prior ... software.  A replay of the presentation will be available ...
(Date:11/25/2015)... ... November 25, 2015 , ... A long-standing partnership ... Professionals (OPBAP) has been formalized with the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding. ... OPBAP leaders Capt. Karl Minter and Capt. Albert Glenn Tuesday, November 24, 2015, ...
(Date:11/25/2015)... Oregon , November 25, 2015 ... Market Research Report is a professional and in-depth ... industry.      (Logo: ) ... overview of the industry including definitions, classifications, applications ... is provided for the international markets including development ...
(Date:11/24/2015)... Nov. 24, 2015  Asia-Pacific (APAC) holds the ... (CRO) market. The trend of outsourcing to low-cost ... but higher volume share for the region in ... however, margins in the CRO industry will improve. ... ( ), finds that the market ...
Breaking Biology Technology: