Global ecological success of Thalassoma fishes in extreme coral reef habitats
KAUST DepartmentBiological and Environmental Sciences and Engineering (BESE) Division
Red Sea Research Center (RSRC)
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AbstractPhenotypic adaptations can allow organisms to relax abiotic selection and facilitate their ecological success in challenging habitats, yet we have relatively little data for the prevalence of this phenomenon at macroecological scales. Using data on the relative abundance of coral reef wrasses and parrotfishes (f. Labridae) spread across three ocean basins and the Red Sea, we reveal the consistent global dominance of extreme wave-swept habitats by fishes in the genus Thalassoma, with abundances up to 15 times higher than any other labrid. A key locomotor modification-a winged pectoral fin that facilitates efficient underwater flight in high-flow environments-is likely to have underpinned this global success, as numerical dominance by Thalassoma was contingent upon the presence of high-intensity wave energy. The ecological success of the most abundant species also varied with species richness and the presence of congeneric competitors. While several fish taxa have independently evolved winged pectoral fins, Thalassoma appears to have combined efficient high-speed swimming (to relax abiotic selection) with trophic versatility (to maximize exploitation of rich resources) to exploit and dominate extreme coral reef habitats around the world.
CitationFulton CJ, Wainwright PC, Hoey AS, Bellwood DR (2016) Global ecological success of Thalassoma fishes in extreme coral reef habitats. Ecology and Evolution. Available: http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/ece3.2624.
SponsorsWe thank the many research station staff around the world for their field assistance, C. Goatley for illustrations, and two anonymous reviewers for their constructive comments. Surveys were conducted with approval of the JCU Animal Experimentation Ethics Committee (A429).
JournalEcology and Evolution
ReferencesFulton, C. J., Wainwright, P. C., Hoey, A. S., & Bellwood, D. R. (2016). Data from: Global ecological success of Thalassoma fishes in extreme coral reef habitats (Version 1) [Data set]. Dryad Digital Repository. https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.24q8p
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