Strict Standards: Redefining already defined constructor for class wpdb in /home/wildlife/public_html/wp-includes/wp-db.php on line 52

Deprecated: Assigning the return value of new by reference is deprecated in /home/wildlife/public_html/wp-includes/cache.php on line 36

Strict Standards: Redefining already defined constructor for class WP_Object_Cache in /home/wildlife/public_html/wp-includes/cache.php on line 389

Strict Standards: Declaration of Walker_Page::start_lvl() should be compatible with Walker::start_lvl($output) in /home/wildlife/public_html/wp-includes/classes.php on line 537

Strict Standards: Declaration of Walker_Page::end_lvl() should be compatible with Walker::end_lvl($output) in /home/wildlife/public_html/wp-includes/classes.php on line 537

Strict Standards: Declaration of Walker_Page::start_el() should be compatible with Walker::start_el($output) in /home/wildlife/public_html/wp-includes/classes.php on line 537

Strict Standards: Declaration of Walker_Page::end_el() should be compatible with Walker::end_el($output) in /home/wildlife/public_html/wp-includes/classes.php on line 537

Strict Standards: Declaration of Walker_PageDropdown::start_el() should be compatible with Walker::start_el($output) in /home/wildlife/public_html/wp-includes/classes.php on line 556

Strict Standards: Declaration of Walker_Category::start_lvl() should be compatible with Walker::start_lvl($output) in /home/wildlife/public_html/wp-includes/classes.php on line 653

Strict Standards: Declaration of Walker_Category::end_lvl() should be compatible with Walker::end_lvl($output) in /home/wildlife/public_html/wp-includes/classes.php on line 653

Strict Standards: Declaration of Walker_Category::start_el() should be compatible with Walker::start_el($output) in /home/wildlife/public_html/wp-includes/classes.php on line 653

Strict Standards: Declaration of Walker_Category::end_el() should be compatible with Walker::end_el($output) in /home/wildlife/public_html/wp-includes/classes.php on line 653

Strict Standards: Declaration of Walker_CategoryDropdown::start_el() should be compatible with Walker::start_el($output) in /home/wildlife/public_html/wp-includes/classes.php on line 678

Deprecated: Assigning the return value of new by reference is deprecated in /home/wildlife/public_html/wp-includes/query.php on line 21

Deprecated: Assigning the return value of new by reference is deprecated in /home/wildlife/public_html/wp-includes/theme.php on line 508
Wildlife Camera » Mystery batfish rescue the reef

Strict Standards: Only variables should be assigned by reference in /home/wildlife/public_html/wp-includes/post.php on line 115
« City’s giant owls are big news -
Strict Standards: Only variables should be assigned by reference in /home/wildlife/public_html/wp-includes/post.php on line 115
Rare doucs found in Vietnam »

Mystery batfish rescue the reef

28 June 2007


Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/wildlife/public_html/wp-includes/formatting.php on line 74

batfish

From Alliance Press Features Correspondent, Brisbane.
Mysterious batfish have saved a coral reef that was being strangled by seaweed – completely removing a patch of weed in eight weeks — although this type of fish was never previously known as a weed-eater and was thought to live entirely on invertebrates.

Scientists studying how sections of the Great Barrier Reef are being lost to sargassum weed were astonished when, after removing a cage from a particularly weedy bit of reef, the rare batfishes came from nowhere and cleaned up most of the growth.

 “Worldwide, coral reefs are in decline,” says Professor Dave Bellwood of James Cook University. “Commonly this takes the form of the coral being smothered by weedy growth.”

So Prof. Bellwood and colleagues were filming a weed-infested patch of coral near Orpheus Island on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef to see whether local herbivorous fish could restore it to a normal state. When a cage was removed from a weedy patch, local herbivore fish were seen to peck at it but made little impression on the dense growth.

“Then these batfish showed up and got stuck into it.  In five days they had halved the amount of weed. In eight weeks it was completely gone and the coral was free to grow unhindered,” Prof. Bellwood explains.

The turnaround was due mainly to one species of batfish, Platax pinnatus, which is comparatively rare on the reef and was thought to feed only on invertebrates.

The event surprised the scientists in two ways, he says.  First, it showed that the species one would normally expect to mow the weeds may make little impression on a heavily-overgrown reef. And secondly it shows that in nature, help can come from a totally unexpected quarter – from a fish that itself may be at some risk.

“Platax are relatively rare on the Great Barrier Reef and currently have no specific legal protection,” he says. “They are vulnerable because their large size makes them attractive to spear-fishers, while they depend as young fishes on coastal mangroves which are in decline in many areas. Indeed, the resilience of inshore reefs may be closely tied to the fate of mangroves and their suitability for batfish recruitment.”

He notes that batfishes may be one of the last intact herbivore populations capable of reversing serious weed overgrowth of inshore coral reefs. The reef has already virtually lost one major group of weed-mowers, the dugongs, and the green turtle is seriously endangered.
Adapted from a news release issued by James Cook University. (Photo of Teira batfish, Platax teira, at Heron Island, Great Barrier Reef, by Chris Dascher, iStockphoto)


Comments are closed.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.