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Data from: Individual-based analyses reveal limited functional overlap in a coral reef fish community


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Data from: Individual-based analyses reveal limited functional overlap in a coral reef fish community
Date Record Created
Date Record Modified
Date Coverage
2012-04 to 2012-05
Time Period
(no information)
Geospatial Location
  • Lizard Island (14°40′08″S 145°27′34″E), northern Great Barrier Reef, Australia
  1. Type: full

    Data consists of 1 file:

    Raw_data_niche_overlap: The data characterizes the choice of microhabitats by herbivorous coral reef fishes during their foraging activity. The columns specify the id (species plus individual number), the surface orientation, the underlying substratum, the extent to which an individual penetrated the substratum with its body or snout and the number of bites taken.

    Abstract [Related Publication]: 1.Detailed knowledge of a species’ functional niche is crucial for the study of ecological communities and processes. The extent of niche overlap, functional redundancy and functional complementarity are of particular importance if we are to understand ecosystem processes and their vulnerability to disturbances.

    2.Coral reefs are among the most threatened marine systems, and anthropogenic activity is changing the functional composition of reefs. The loss of herbivorous fishes is particularly concerning as the removal of algae is crucial for the growth and survival of corals. Yet, the foraging patterns of the various herbivorous fish species are poorly understood.

    3.Using a multidimensional framework, we present novel individual-based analyses of species’ realized functional niches, which we apply to a herbivorous coral reef fish community. In calculating niche volumes for 21 species, based on their microhabitat utilization patterns during foraging, and computing functional overlaps, we provide a measurement of functional redundancy or complementarity. Complementarity is the inverse of redundancy and is defined as less than 50% overlap in niche volumes.

    4.The analyses reveal extensive complementarity with an average functional overlap of just 15.2%. Furthermore, the analyses divide herbivorous reef fishes into two broad groups. The first group (predominantly surgeonfishes and parrotfishes) comprises species feeding on exposed surfaces and predominantly open reef matrix or sandy substrata, resulting in small niche volumes and extensive complementarity. In contrast, the second group consists of species (predominantly rabbitfishes) that feed over a wider range of microhabitats, penetrating the reef matrix to exploit concealed surfaces of various substratum types. These species show high variation among individuals, leading to large niche volumes, more overlap and less complementarity.

    5.These results may have crucial consequences for our understanding of herbivorous processes on coral reefs, as algal removal appears to depend strongly on species-specific microhabitat utilization patterns of herbivores. Furthermore, the results emphasize the capacity of the individual-based analyses to reveal variation in the functional niches of species, even in high diversity systems such as coral reefs, demonstrating its potential applicability to other high-diversity ecosystems.

    The full methodology is available in the publication shown in the Related Publications link below.

  2. Type: note

    This dataset is available from Dryad in PDF format. Dryad data package: Brandl SJ, Bellwood DR (2013) Data from: Individual-based analyses reveal limited functional overlap in a coral reef fish community. Dryad Digital Repository.

Related Publications
  1. Brandl, Simon J., and Bellwood, David R. (2014) Individual-based analyses reveal limited functional overlap in a coral reef fish community. Journal of Animal Ecology, 83 (3). pp. 661-670.
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  1. Managed by: Mr Simon Brandl , , ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, School of Marine & Tropical Biology (6620)
  2. Associated with: Prof David Bellwood , , ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, Marine Biology & Aquaculture
Primary Contact
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Fields of Research
  1. 060202 - Community Ecology (060202)
  2. 050102 - Ecosystem Function (050102)
  3. 060205 - Marine and Estuarine Ecology (incl. Marine Ichthyology) (060205)
Socio-Economic Objective
  1. 960507 - Ecosystem Assessment and Management of Marine Environments (960507)
  2. 970106 - Expanding Knowledge in the Biological Sciences (970106)
  1. biodiversity
  2. ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies
  3. community ecology
  4. ecosystem function
  5. Eltonian niche
  6. functional diversity
  7. functional group
  8. herbivory
  9. niche partitioning
  10. Siganidae
Research Activity
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Research Themes
Tropical Ecosystems, Conservation and Climate Change
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License - Other
CC 0: Public Domain Dedication 1.0 Universal
Access Rights/Conditions
Open access. If the data is not feely accessible via the link provided, please contact the nominated data manager or for assistance.
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Data Location
Online Locations
Stored At
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Brandl, S.; Bellwood, D. (2013). Data from: Individual-based analyses reveal limited functional overlap in a coral reef fish community. James Cook University. (dataset). 6572fd86215c071159edfca5d9e10dcd