[en] The damselfishes, with more than 340 species, constitute one of the most important families that live in the coral reef environment. Most of our knowledge of reef-fish ecology is based on this family, but their trophic ecology is poorly understood. The aim of the present study was to
determine the trophic niches of 13 sympatric species of damselfishes by combining stable isotope (d15N and d13C) and stomach content analyses. Isotopic signatures reveal three main groups according to their foraging strategies: pelagic feeders (Abudefduf sexfasciatus, A. sparoides, A. vaigiensis, Chromis ternatensis, C. dimidiata, Dascyllus trimaculatus and Pomacentrus caeruleus), benthic feeders (Chrysiptera unimaculata, Plectroglyphidodon lacrymatus and Amphiprion akallopisos) and an intermediate group (D. aruanus, P. baenschi and P. trilineatus). Stomach contents reveal that planktonic copepods and filamentous algae mainly represent the diets of pelagic feeders and benthic feeders, respectively. The intermediate position of the third group resulted from a partitioning of small planktonic prey, small vagile invertebrates and filamentous algae. In this last feeding group, the presence of a wide range of d13C values in P. trilineatus suggests a larger trophic niche width, related to diet-switching over time. Some general considerations about the feeding habits of damselfishes reveal that their choice of habitat on the reef and their behavior appear to be good predictors of diet in this group. Benthic (algae and/or small invertebrates) feeders appear to be solitary and defend a small territory on the bottom; zooplankton feeders remain in groups just above the reef, in the water column.
Fonds de la Recherche Scientifique (Communauté française de Belgique) - F.R.S.-FNRS