Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Batfish play important role in aiding coral reef recovery

Batfish play important role in aiding coral reef recovery

Washington, Dec 19 (ANI): Researchers at James Cook University, Australia
have found that the rare batfish, Platax pinnatus, plays an important role
in promoting the return to health of a disturbed coral reef overgrown with

Researches say one of the most visible signs of a decline in the condition
of coral reefs is when algae start to dominate the reefs.

According to them, while this phase shift can be triggered by a loss of
algae-consuming herbivores, especially parrotfishes and surgeonfishes, the
intriguing question has always been "How can this coral-algal phase shift be

But now, by simulating overfishing in large experimental plots on the Great
Barrier Reef, scientists found that that the dominant fish that helps a reef
return back to its healthy state is a rare batfish.

For their study, the researchers intentionally triggered a phase shift to
algal dominance on a healthy reef.

They then filmed the reef's recovery with remote underwater digital videos
cameras and found that only two of the 27 herbivorous fish species present
on the reefs had any significant impact on its recovery from algal

The dominant browser was a rare batfish, a species previously thought to be
an invertebrate feeder and parrotfishes and surgeonfishes, which are the
routine consumers of seaweed on coral reefs, were unable to reverse runaway
algal blooms.

The three researchers who conducted the study are David Bellwood, Terry
Hughes, and Andrew Hoey. Their work appears in the December 19th issue of
the journal Current Biology. (ANI)

Full story at

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