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The Effect of a Flexible Spacing System On the Social Organization of a Coral Reef Fish, Chaetodon Capistratus

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1. The influence of spacing systems upon fitness was investigated by measuring parameters assumed to affect fitness directly. These included reproduction, shelter and food. 2. Three classes of C. capistratus were found, based upon their motional behaviour. These were Residents, Randoms and Transients. 3. Residents remained in and reused particular areas repeatedly. Transients used separate areas and were not usually observed in any particular area. Randoms behaved in a random fashion relative to the other two classes described. Further differences between the three classes were as follows. 4. C. capistratus have been observed in pairs, but pairs were of short duration and partners were frequently of the same as well as of the opposite sex. There is no offspring care system. 5. Predation on C. capistratus is very low. It was found that Residents were more harassed by neighbouring Eupomacentrids than Randoms or Transients were. Thus it did not appear to be an advantage to Residents to have a shelter from harassment and predation or for reproduction. 6. Residents gained more nips on preferred species and size of food. Aggression was significantly related to food in Residents, while non-food related activities were significantly related to aggression in Randoms and Transients. 7. The spacing system and its effect on the social organization of C. capistratus described occurs diurnally, when the fish feed. It is a flexible system as the fish may change classes, and perhaps it is only 'economical' to spend the time and energy for the defense of a site as a Resident for food and only when necessary.

Affiliations: 1: (Zoology Department, University of the West Indies, Kingston, Jamaica, W. I.


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