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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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Distribution of Bolbometopon muricatum at Wake Atoll observed during towed-diver surveys from 2005–2009.Surveys were conducted on a biennial basis by the NOAA Coral Reef Ecosystem Division. Circles indicate the total number of fish observed at each location around the atoll.
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pone-0038120-g003: Distribution of Bolbometopon muricatum at Wake Atoll observed during towed-diver surveys from 2005–2009.Surveys were conducted on a biennial basis by the NOAA Coral Reef Ecosystem Division. Circles indicate the total number of fish observed at each location around the atoll.

Mentions: Wake Atoll (19o 18′ N, 166o 37′ E), is a U. S. Pacific Remote Island, National Wildlife Refuge, and recently designated Marine National Monument co-managed by the U. S. Department of Defense (DOD) and the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). We conducted 100 h of snorkel and scuba observations of giant bumphead parrotfish (Bolbometopon muricatum, Labridae, Scarinae, [29]) from 12–25 August 2011. Visibility ranged from 4.5 m to >30 m, depending on the tidal state (ebbing tide drained the atoll lagoon, decreasing visibility). General underwater conditions can be found in Lobel and Lobel [30]. We chose study sites along the outer fore reef based on the densities of Bolbometopon from previous towed-diver surveys by the U. S. National Marine Fisheries Service Coral Reef Ecosystem Division, which conducts biennial surveys of the coral reef ecosystem at Wake Atoll (Fig. 3). Detailed survey methods can be found in Richards et al. [31]. Briefly, divers maneuvered towboards 1–3 m above the substrate and tallied all fishes ≥50 cm TL that entered a 10 m wide swath centered on and forward of the diver. Surveys were 50 min in duration and observational data were recorded in 10 5-min segments. A total of 51 towed-diver surveys were completed during research cruises in 2005, 2007, and 2009. Surveys circumnavigated the island and over 29.64 ha of reef area were surveyed around Wake Atoll during each survey year. The spatial consistency of increased Bolbometopon densities in the SW side of the island across years suggests that Bolbometopon may form true fish spawning aggregations at Wake Atoll (sensu Domeier [32]); we will present additional analyses that further examine this possibility in a related paper (Muñoz et al. in prep). Because of its remote location and its administration by DOD (since 1934) and USFWS, commercial fishing at Wake Atoll has been excluded and all fishing for Bolbometopon is prohibited, so populations can be considered pristine (island-wide mean of 2.97 individuals per ha [SE 0.96], Fig. 1a) [33], [34].


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)

Distribution of Bolbometopon muricatum at Wake Atoll observed during towed-diver surveys from 2005–2009.Surveys were conducted on a biennial basis by the NOAA Coral Reef Ecosystem Division. Circles indicate the total number of fish observed at each location around the atoll.
© Copyright Policy
Related In: Results  -  Collection

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

pone-0038120-g003: Distribution of Bolbometopon muricatum at Wake Atoll observed during towed-diver surveys from 2005–2009.Surveys were conducted on a biennial basis by the NOAA Coral Reef Ecosystem Division. Circles indicate the total number of fish observed at each location around the atoll.
Mentions: Wake Atoll (19o 18′ N, 166o 37′ E), is a U. S. Pacific Remote Island, National Wildlife Refuge, and recently designated Marine National Monument co-managed by the U. S. Department of Defense (DOD) and the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). We conducted 100 h of snorkel and scuba observations of giant bumphead parrotfish (Bolbometopon muricatum, Labridae, Scarinae, [29]) from 12–25 August 2011. Visibility ranged from 4.5 m to >30 m, depending on the tidal state (ebbing tide drained the atoll lagoon, decreasing visibility). General underwater conditions can be found in Lobel and Lobel [30]. We chose study sites along the outer fore reef based on the densities of Bolbometopon from previous towed-diver surveys by the U. S. National Marine Fisheries Service Coral Reef Ecosystem Division, which conducts biennial surveys of the coral reef ecosystem at Wake Atoll (Fig. 3). Detailed survey methods can be found in Richards et al. [31]. Briefly, divers maneuvered towboards 1–3 m above the substrate and tallied all fishes ≥50 cm TL that entered a 10 m wide swath centered on and forward of the diver. Surveys were 50 min in duration and observational data were recorded in 10 5-min segments. A total of 51 towed-diver surveys were completed during research cruises in 2005, 2007, and 2009. Surveys circumnavigated the island and over 29.64 ha of reef area were surveyed around Wake Atoll during each survey year. The spatial consistency of increased Bolbometopon densities in the SW side of the island across years suggests that Bolbometopon may form true fish spawning aggregations at Wake Atoll (sensu Domeier [32]); we will present additional analyses that further examine this possibility in a related paper (Muñoz et al. in prep). Because of its remote location and its administration by DOD (since 1934) and USFWS, commercial fishing at Wake Atoll has been excluded and all fishing for Bolbometopon is prohibited, so populations can be considered pristine (island-wide mean of 2.97 individuals per ha [SE 0.96], Fig. 1a) [33], [34].

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