Ontogeny of space use and diet of two temperate damselfish species,Parma microlepisandParma unifasciata

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Studies of reef fish herbivory have mainly focused on the impacts and behaviour of adults of tropical species. In this study, the ontogenetic shifts in home range, aggression, feeding rate, diet and gut morphology in juveniles and adults of two temperate territorial damselfishes, Parma microlepis and Parma unifasciata, were determined. Both P. microlepis and P. unifasciata juveniles under 80 mm TL exhibited no aggressive chases towards conspecifics or other species, while above 80 mm TL aggressive chase frequency increased in conjunction with an increase in home range, defended as a territory. Ontogenetic diet shifts, characterised by an increase in herbivory (P. unifasciata: juveniles: 64% plant material, adults: 95% plant material; P. microlepis: juveniles: 43% plant material, adults: 67% plant material) were observed for both species. The ratio of digestive tract length to body length, which often accompanies a switch to herbivory, increased significantly with ontogeny for both species. Compared to tropical confamilial grazers, these temperate damselfish species feeding rates were lower, and they had larger territories which were not as strongly defended (fewer aggressive chases).

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