Wolf, Alexander T., Nugues, Maggy M. and Wild, Christian (2014) Distribution, food preference, and trophic position of the corallivorous fireworm Hermodice carunculata in a Caribbean coral reef. Coral Reefs, 33 (4). pp. 1153-1163. DOI https://doi.org/10.1007/s00338-014-1184-8.

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The fireworm Hermodice carunculata is a facultative corallivore on coral reefs. It can interact with algal overgrowth to cause coral mortality. However, because of its cryptic nature, little is known about its ecology. We used micropredator attracting devices (MADs) and stable isotope analyses to provide insights into the distribution and diet of H. carunculata in a coral reef on Curaçao, southern Caribbean. MADs consisted of algal clumps inside accessible mesh nets which H. carunculata could use as refuge. To obtain indications on its distribution pattern, MADs filled with Halimeda opuntia were deployed in different reef habitats ranging from 0 to 16 m water depth. Fireworms were found inside MADs in all reef habitats, indicating that they have a widespread horizontal and vertical distribution, ranging from the shoreline to the deeper reef slope. On the reef crest, MADs were filled using different algal species and deployed on dead or live scleractinian corals. MADs hosted more fireworms when placed on live corals, regardless of algal species used, suggesting that algal-induced corallivory may be widespread. To test for food preferences, different food sources were added inside the MADs. Fireworms detected potential prey within 6 h and were significantly more attracted by decaying corals and raw fish than by live corals, hydrozoans, or gorgonians. Stable isotope analyses indicated detritus, macroalgae, and scleractinian corals as potential food sources and revealed an ontogenetic dietary shift toward enriched δ 13C and δ 15N values with increasing fireworm size, suggesting that large-sized individuals feed on food sources of higher trophic levels. Our findings highlight H. carunculata as a widespread, and omnivorous scavenger that has the potential to switch feeding toward weakened or stressed corals, thereby likely acting as a harmful corallivore on degraded reefs.

Document Type: Article
Programme Area: UNSPECIFIED
Research affiliation: Ecology
Refereed: Yes
Open Access Journal?: No
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s00338-014-1184-8
ISSN: 0722-4028
Date Deposited: 14 Aug 2019 13:14
Last Modified: 26 Mar 2024 13:29
URI: http://cris.leibniz-zmt.de/id/eprint/2594

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