Interrelationships between reef fishes and soft corals
Due to their lack of a carbonate skeleton and associated reliance on the production of deterrent or ichthyotoxic secondary metabolites, soft corals have long been considered poor habitat and of low importance as a food resource for reef fishes. However, some fish species have demonstrated use of soft corals as ‘habitat responders’ – especially with respect to the use of soft corals as shelter in the same way as has been observed between fish and hard corals. The predator-prey association between fishes and soft corals and the effects of fish predation on soft coral growth and survival, however, has received relatively little attention despite soft-coral feeding being observed for some fish species. The aim of my honours project is to investigate the predator-prey interrelationships between reef fishes and soft corals by focusing on two species of soft coral-feeding and soft coral-associated fish: Neoglyphidodon melas (Pomacentridae) and Chaetodon melannotus (Chaetodontidae). The study will determine the relative importance of soft corals to the diet of these fishes and the impact of fish in soft corals.