Marine Biology

, Volume 148, Issue 5, pp 1089–1099 | Cite as

Planktivorous damselfish support significant nitrogen and phosphorus fluxes to Mediterranean reefs

  • John K. PinnegarEmail author
  • Nicholas V. C. Polunin
Research Article


In an ecosystem, which is apparently very limited in N and P, the planktivorous damselfish Chromis chromis acts as an important vector in transferring nutrients from the pelagic into littoral food webs. C. chromis are more efficient at absorbing nutrients from their diet than herbivorous Pomacentridae, and excrete more faeces in the spring when their plankton food is more abundant. Faeces released in the water column sink rapidly to the substratum and are consumed by herbivorous and omnivorous fish. Faeces released into night-shelters are rapidly consumed by invertebrate detritivores, and particularly mobile scavengers, such as shrimps and hermit crabs. Night-time accrual of Chromis faeces represents a very important flux of N and P. Such fluxes are predictable in time and space and have thus far been ignored in studies of the western Mediterranean.


Macroalgae Faecal Pellet Absorption Efficiency Hermit Crab Planktivorous Fish 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



We thank the staff of STARESO (Station de Recherche Sous-Marine et Océanographiques) for their hospitality and assistance in the field, also Dr. Costas Frangoulis for lending me his thesis and providing additional zooplanton data. Two anonymous reviewers provided constructive comments and have contributed significantly to improving this manuscript. J.K. Pinnegar was supported by the Fisheries Society of the British Isles 1996 studentship.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture ScienceLowestoft Fisheries LaboratoryLowestoftUK
  2. 2.School of Marine Science and TechnologyUniversity of NewcastleNewcastle upon TyneUK

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