Toggle Main Menu Toggle Search

Open Access padlockePrints

Influence of Resource Availability on the Foraging Strategies of the Triangle Butterflyfish Chaetodon triangulum in the Maldives

Lookup NU author(s): Deborah Burn, Professor Per Berggren



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


Obligate coral feeders such as many members of the Chaetodontidae family (also known as butterflyfish) often show strong preferences for particular coral species. This is thought to have evolved through natural selection as an energy-maximising strategy. Although some species remain as highly specialised feeders throughout their lifetime, many corallivores show a degree of dietary versatility when food abundance is limited; a strategy described by the optimal foraging theory. This study aimed to examine if, within-reef differences in the feeding regime and territory size of the Triangle Butterflyfish Chaetodon triangulum occurred, as a function of resource availability. Results showed that the dietary specialisation of C. triangulum was significant in both areas of low and high coral cover (χL22 = 2.52 x 102, P<0.001 and χL22 = 3.78 x 102, P<0.001 respectively). Resource selection functions (RSFs), calculated for the two main sites of contrasting coral assemblage, showed that in the resource-rich environments, only two Genera (Acropora and Pocillopora) were preferentially selected for, with the majority of other corals being actively ‘avoided’. Conversely, in territories of lower coral coverage, C. triangulum was being less selective in its prey choice and consuming corals in a more even distribution with respect to their availability. Interestingly, coral cover appeared to show no significant effect on feeding rate, however it was a primary determinant of territory size. The findings of the study agree with the predictions of the optimal foraging theory, in that where food supply is scarce, dietary specialisation is minimised and territory size increased. This results in maximising energy intake. This study represents the first scientific evidence that C. triangulum is an obligate corallivore and, as with many other butterflyfish, is therefore dependent on healthy scleractinian corals for survival.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Chandler JF, Burn D, Berggren P, Sweet MJ

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: PLoS One

Year: 2016

Volume: 11

Issue: 3

Online publication date: 21/03/2016

Acceptance date: 10/03/2016

Date deposited: 11/04/2016

ISSN (electronic): 1932-6203

Publisher: Public Library of Science


DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0151923


Altmetrics provided by Altmetric