Seminar Details

The dietary niche in the behavioural and community ecology of butterflyfishes




Dr. Shane Blowes - Dept. of Zoology, Tel Aviv University


The niche concept is central to ecology, and an important means of synthesis across levels of ecological organization. Despite this potential for synthesis, few studies have used the niche to examine community-level consequences of individual behaviour. Focusing on the dietary niche, I use coral reef butterflyfish assemblages as a model system, to (i) evaluate the role of the dietary niche for determining aggression between species; (ii) examine the relationships between aggression, consumer and resource densities, and consumer foraging rates; and, (iii) experimentally determine whether subordinate species increase their use of a preferred dietary resource in the absence of the behavioural dominants. By focusing on direct behavioural interactions and quantitative estimates of the dietary niche I show unique confirmatory evidence for a long-standing hypothesis of the relationship between behavioural dominance and niche breadth, and highlight the potential for aggression between species to contribute to niche partitioning. These results are important for our understanding of the structure of, and coexistence within, ecological guilds.

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