Marine Biology

, Volume 156, Issue 3, pp 317–330 | Cite as

Trophic ecology of coral reef gobies: interspecific, ontogenetic, and seasonal comparison of diet and feeding intensity

  • V. HernamanEmail author
  • P. K. Probert
  • W. D. Robbins
Original Paper


In fishes, a small body size may facilitate cost-effective exploitation of various primary and secondary food resources, but may pose difficulties associated with digestion of plant material and finding sufficient food in a foraging area potentially restricted by a high risk of predation. We examined the trophic ecology of five common, small-bodied coral reef fish from the family Gobiidae. For each species, we determined diet composition, feeding bite rate, foraging substrate, and feeding behaviour, and examined whether diet composition and feeding bite rate changed ontogenetically and seasonally. The five species showed a diverse range of trophic modes: Amblygobius bynoensis and Amblygobius phalaena were herbivores, Valenciennea muralis was a carnivore, Asterropteryx semipunctatus a detritivore, and Istigobius goldmanni an omnivore. Both the herbivores and detritivore supplemented their diet with animal material. The consumption of a wide range of dietary resources by the two smallest species with the most restricted mobility (A. semipunctatus and I. goldmanni) may ensure energy requirements are met within a restricted foraging area. There was a significant difference in mean feeding bite rate among species, with carnivore > herbivore > omnivore > detritivore. None of the species exhibited an ontogenetic shift in diet composition or increase in feeding bite rate, indicating that (1) postmaturation growth is not facilitated by a higher quality diet or increased feeding intensity following maturation, and (2) their small body size does not preclude herbivory. The herbivores had the highest gut:fish length ratio, which may facilitate plant digestion. While diet did not change seasonally, the mean feeding bite rate was significantly lower in winter than summer for four of the study species.


Coral Reef Diet Composition Reef Flat Coral Reef Fish Filamentous Alga 



We thank J. H. Choat for providing substantial logistical support at James Cook University, J. Vasques and P. Brewin for field assistance, and the staff at the Orpheus Island Research Station. We also thank two anonymous reviewers for constructive comments on the manuscript. This study was funded by a University of Otago Research Grant awarded to P.K.P., and a Commonwealth Postgraduate Scholarship and PADI Aware Research Grant awarded to V.H. The experiments in this study comply with the current Australian laws.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Marine ScienceUniversity of OtagoDunedinNew Zealand
  2. 2.School of Marine and Tropical BiologyJames Cook UniversityTownsvilleAustralia
  3. 3.Centre for Marine StudiesUniversity of QueenslandSt LuciaAustralia

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