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Extraordinary aggressive behavior from the giant coral reef fish, Bolbometopon muricatum, in a remote marine reserve.

Muñoz RC, Zgliczynski BJ, Laughlin JL, Teer BZ - PLoS ONE (2012)

Bottom Line: Endangered Species Act and limiting opportunities to study unexploited populations.Bolbometopon is among the largest of coral reef fishes and is a well known, charismatic species, yet to our knowledge, no scientific documentation of ritualized headbutting exists for marine fishes.Our observations of aggressive headbutting by Bolbometopon underscore that remote locations and marine reserves, by inhibiting negative responses to human observers and by allowing the persistence of historical conditions, can provide valuable opportunities to study ecosystems in their natural state, thereby facilitating the discovery, conservation, and interpretation of a range of sometimes remarkable behavioral and ecological processes.

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

Affiliation: National Marine Fisheries Service, Beaufort Laboratory, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Beaufort, North Carolina, United States of America. roldan.munoz@noaa.gov

ABSTRACT
Human impacts to terrestrial and marine communities are widespread and typically begin with the local extirpation of large-bodied animals. In the marine environment, few pristine areas relatively free of human impact remain to provide baselines of ecosystem function and goals for restoration efforts. Recent comparisons of remote and/or protected coral reefs versus impacted sites suggest remote systems are dominated by apex predators, yet in these systems the ecological role of non-predatory, large-bodied, highly vulnerable species such as the giant bumphead parrotfish (Bolbometopon muricatum) has received less attention. Overfishing of Bolbometopon has lead to precipitous declines in population density and avoidance of humans throughout its range, contributing to its status as a candidate species under the U. S. Endangered Species Act and limiting opportunities to study unexploited populations. Here we show that extraordinary ecological processes, such as violent headbutting contests by the world's largest parrotfish, can be revealed by studying unexploited ecosystems, such as the coral reefs of Wake Atoll where we studied an abundant population of Bolbometopon. Bolbometopon is among the largest of coral reef fishes and is a well known, charismatic species, yet to our knowledge, no scientific documentation of ritualized headbutting exists for marine fishes. Our observations of aggressive headbutting by Bolbometopon underscore that remote locations and marine reserves, by inhibiting negative responses to human observers and by allowing the persistence of historical conditions, can provide valuable opportunities to study ecosystems in their natural state, thereby facilitating the discovery, conservation, and interpretation of a range of sometimes remarkable behavioral and ecological processes.

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Bolbometopon muricatum at Wake Atoll.(a) Partial spawning aggregation of Bolbometopon consisting of 246 individuals. (b) Second headbutting impact. Time corresponds with video. (c) Capitulation by subordinate male (on right) rapidly fleeing the area with use of caudal fin following fourth charge. (d) Dominant male showing scale damage on back and side following headbutting bout.
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pone-0038120-g001: Bolbometopon muricatum at Wake Atoll.(a) Partial spawning aggregation of Bolbometopon consisting of 246 individuals. (b) Second headbutting impact. Time corresponds with video. (c) Capitulation by subordinate male (on right) rapidly fleeing the area with use of caudal fin following fourth charge. (d) Dominant male showing scale damage on back and side following headbutting bout.

Mentions: One location where the ecological role of Bolbometopon has been studied is Australia’s Great Barrier Reef (GBR). The GBR has no commercial fisheries for parrotfishes. As such, these reefs support healthy populations of giant bumphead parrotfish where schools of 30–50 individuals can be observed regularly [6], [16]. On the GBR, individuals appear capable of bioeroding over 5 tons of reef carbonate each year [16]. Because of its large size, feeding rates, and schooling behavior, Bolbometopon may play a keystone role as a major coral consumer and bioeroder on coral reefs. In overfished locations, negative effects may include significant disruption to coral community structure, reductions in reef structural stability via invasive erosion by echinoids, and dramatic reductions in sediment transport [16]. Given Bolbometopon’s vulnerability to overexploitation and ecological role, comparative studies of its biology and ecology from additional unexploited populations are urgently needed and may provide critical insights for the development of recovery and management plans throughout its range. We studied spawning site characteristics and reproductive behavior of such a population at Wake Atoll, a U. S. Marine National Monument where great abundances of Bolbometopon can be commonly observed (Fig. 1a). On its spawning grounds, we witnessed spectacular displays of aggressive behavior between males which we describe here.


Extraordinary aggressive behavior from the giant coral reef fish, Bolbometopon muricatum, in a remote marine reserve.

Muñoz RC, Zgliczynski BJ, Laughlin JL, Teer BZ - PLoS ONE (2012)

Bolbometopon muricatum at Wake Atoll.(a) Partial spawning aggregation of Bolbometopon consisting of 246 individuals. (b) Second headbutting impact. Time corresponds with video. (c) Capitulation by subordinate male (on right) rapidly fleeing the area with use of caudal fin following fourth charge. (d) Dominant male showing scale damage on back and side following headbutting bout.
© Copyright Policy
Related In: Results  -  Collection

Show All Figures
getmorefigures.php?uid=PMC3368943&req=5

pone-0038120-g001: Bolbometopon muricatum at Wake Atoll.(a) Partial spawning aggregation of Bolbometopon consisting of 246 individuals. (b) Second headbutting impact. Time corresponds with video. (c) Capitulation by subordinate male (on right) rapidly fleeing the area with use of caudal fin following fourth charge. (d) Dominant male showing scale damage on back and side following headbutting bout.
Mentions: One location where the ecological role of Bolbometopon has been studied is Australia’s Great Barrier Reef (GBR). The GBR has no commercial fisheries for parrotfishes. As such, these reefs support healthy populations of giant bumphead parrotfish where schools of 30–50 individuals can be observed regularly [6], [16]. On the GBR, individuals appear capable of bioeroding over 5 tons of reef carbonate each year [16]. Because of its large size, feeding rates, and schooling behavior, Bolbometopon may play a keystone role as a major coral consumer and bioeroder on coral reefs. In overfished locations, negative effects may include significant disruption to coral community structure, reductions in reef structural stability via invasive erosion by echinoids, and dramatic reductions in sediment transport [16]. Given Bolbometopon’s vulnerability to overexploitation and ecological role, comparative studies of its biology and ecology from additional unexploited populations are urgently needed and may provide critical insights for the development of recovery and management plans throughout its range. We studied spawning site characteristics and reproductive behavior of such a population at Wake Atoll, a U. S. Marine National Monument where great abundances of Bolbometopon can be commonly observed (Fig. 1a). On its spawning grounds, we witnessed spectacular displays of aggressive behavior between males which we describe here.

Bottom Line: Endangered Species Act and limiting opportunities to study unexploited populations.Bolbometopon is among the largest of coral reef fishes and is a well known, charismatic species, yet to our knowledge, no scientific documentation of ritualized headbutting exists for marine fishes.Our observations of aggressive headbutting by Bolbometopon underscore that remote locations and marine reserves, by inhibiting negative responses to human observers and by allowing the persistence of historical conditions, can provide valuable opportunities to study ecosystems in their natural state, thereby facilitating the discovery, conservation, and interpretation of a range of sometimes remarkable behavioral and ecological processes.

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

Affiliation: National Marine Fisheries Service, Beaufort Laboratory, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Beaufort, North Carolina, United States of America. roldan.munoz@noaa.gov

ABSTRACT
Human impacts to terrestrial and marine communities are widespread and typically begin with the local extirpation of large-bodied animals. In the marine environment, few pristine areas relatively free of human impact remain to provide baselines of ecosystem function and goals for restoration efforts. Recent comparisons of remote and/or protected coral reefs versus impacted sites suggest remote systems are dominated by apex predators, yet in these systems the ecological role of non-predatory, large-bodied, highly vulnerable species such as the giant bumphead parrotfish (Bolbometopon muricatum) has received less attention. Overfishing of Bolbometopon has lead to precipitous declines in population density and avoidance of humans throughout its range, contributing to its status as a candidate species under the U. S. Endangered Species Act and limiting opportunities to study unexploited populations. Here we show that extraordinary ecological processes, such as violent headbutting contests by the world's largest parrotfish, can be revealed by studying unexploited ecosystems, such as the coral reefs of Wake Atoll where we studied an abundant population of Bolbometopon. Bolbometopon is among the largest of coral reef fishes and is a well known, charismatic species, yet to our knowledge, no scientific documentation of ritualized headbutting exists for marine fishes. Our observations of aggressive headbutting by Bolbometopon underscore that remote locations and marine reserves, by inhibiting negative responses to human observers and by allowing the persistence of historical conditions, can provide valuable opportunities to study ecosystems in their natural state, thereby facilitating the discovery, conservation, and interpretation of a range of sometimes remarkable behavioral and ecological processes.

Show MeSH
Related in: MedlinePlus