University of Arkansas, Fayetteville


Given the highly stochastic nature of larval supply, coral reef fish may often settle in sub-optimal habitats with limited prey. This study examines the foraging and territorial habits of a coral feeding butterflyfish, Chaetodon baronessa, living in two contrasting habitats with markedly different coral prey. In exposed front reef habitats, where coral prey was highly abundant, C. baronessa was highly selective in its choice of prey and aggressively maintained small territories. In contrast, in back reef habitats where coral prey was scarcer, C. baronessa was more generalist in its choice of prey, and had larger territories that were only weakly defended. The contrasting habits of C. baronessa in different reef habitats are consistent with predictions of optimal foraging theory, in that dietary specialisation and territoriality are reduced to maximise food intake where prey is less abundant.