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When Certain Corals Die, so do Orange Spotted Filefish

Oxymonacanthus longirostris feeds almost exclusively on Acropora millepora and when the coral dies off, so does the fish.

By John B. Virata | August 5, 2014

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The orange-spotted filefish (Oxymonacanthus longirostris), a fish that has been successfully bred for many years, is not the easiest fish to keep due to its selective eating habits. Research now has shed light on why this fish tends to waste away in less experienced hands. They as soon as much die in the wild than change their eating habits.

 

In a paper published in the Springer Link journal, researchers R. M. Brooker, P. L. Munday, S. J. Brandl, and G. P. Jones state that the orange spotted filefish, a corallivorous reef fish, feeds almost exclusively on Acropora millepora and die off when the coral disappears from the reef. Even when other coral species are abundant, the loss of Acropora millepora is devastating to the orange-spotted filefish.

Research shows that the orange spotted filefish would as soon whither away than change its eating habits. Photo by Richard Ling/Wikipedia

The researchers documented the population of the species after a mass beaching event on a reef killed all the Acropora millepora. The orange-spotted filefish continued to attempt to dine on the coral even though there was an abundance of coral species that were not affected by the bleaching event. What their study suggests is that specialized feeders may not be able to adapt to even subtle changes to their environments and to the food sources that they depend upon for survival.


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An abstract of the paper, "Local extinction of a coral reef fish explained by inflexible prey choice”  can be found online at the Springer Link Website.

John B. Virata has been keeping fish since he was 10 years old.  He currently keeps an 80 gallon cichlid tank, a 20 gallon freshwater community tank and a 29 gallon BioCube with a Percula clown, a huge blue green chromis, and a firefish all in his kitchen, and a 55 gallon FOWLR tank with a pair of Ocellaris clowns, two blue green chromis, a six line wrasse, a peppermint shrimp, assorted algae and a few aiptasia anemones in his living room. Follow him on Twitter @johnvirata  

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