Coral Reefs

, Volume 30, Issue 3, pp 631–642 | Cite as

Passive acoustic telemetry reveals highly variable home range and movement patterns among unicornfish within a marine reserve

  • A. Marshell
  • J. S. Mills
  • K. L. Rhodes
  • J. McIlwain


Marine reserves are the primary management tool for Guam’s reef fish fishery. While a build-up of fish biomass has occurred inside reserve boundaries, it is unknown whether reserve size matches the scale of movement of target species. Using passive acoustic telemetry, we quantified movement patterns and home range size of two heavily exploited unicornfish Naso unicornis and Naso lituratus. Fifteen fish (N. unicornis: n = 7; N. lituratus: n = 4 male, n = 4 female) were fitted with internal acoustic tags and tracked continuously over four months within a remote acoustic receiver array located in a decade-old marine reserve. This approach provided robust estimates of unicornfish movement patterns and home range size. The mean home range of 3.2 ha for N. unicornis was almost ten times larger than that previously recorded from a three-week tracking study of the species in Hawaii. While N. lituratus were smaller in body size, their mean home range (6.8 ha) was over twice that of N. unicornis. Both species displayed strong site fidelity, particularly during nocturnal and crepuscular periods. Although there was some overlap, individual movement patterns and home range size were highly variable within species and between sexes. N. unicornis home range increased with body size, and only the three largest fish home ranges extended into the deeper outer reef slope beyond the shallow reef flat. Both Naso species favoured habitat dominated by corals. Some individuals made predictable daily crepuscular migrations between different locations or habitat types. There was no evidence of significant spillover from the marine reserve into adjacent fished areas. Strong site fidelity coupled with negligible spillover suggests that small-scale reserves, with natural habitat boundaries to emigration, are effective in protecting localized unicornfish populations.


Acoustic telemetry Home range Movement patterns Marine reserves Acanthuridae Guam 



This project was funded by US Fish and Wildlife Service Sport Fish Restoration Program Grant Number: F14-R1. We would like to thank students and associates of the McIlwain lab for their help in the field, but especially Mark Priest for his large contribution of assistance throughout this project. We are grateful for the logistical support provided by the UOG Marine Laboratory Technicians. We also appreciate comments and suggestions from two anonymous reviewers that helped improve this manuscript.

Supplementary material

338_2011_770_MOESM1_ESM.eps (5.4 mb)
Fig. 6 Habitat-related individual home range area estimates of Naso unicornis (ag) and Naso lituratus (females: hk; males: lo). Pink bubble contour = 95% kernel utilization density (KUD); green bubble contour = 50% KUD; blue line = 95% minimum convex polygon (MCP). Colour codes for habitat types are shown in the legend. (EPS 5547 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • A. Marshell
    • 1
    • 2
  • J. S. Mills
    • 2
  • K. L. Rhodes
    • 3
  • J. McIlwain
    • 2
  1. 1.Marine Spatial Ecology Lab, School of Biological SciencesUniversity of QueenslandBrisbaneAustralia
  2. 2.Marine LaboratoryUniversity of GuamMangilaoGuam
  3. 3.College of Agriculture, Forestry and Natural Resource ManagementUniversity of Hawaii at HiloHiloUSA

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