Comparative feeding ecology of two herbivorous damselfishes (Pomacentridae: Teleostei) from the Gulf of California, Mexico

W. Linn Montgomery

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

85 Scopus citations


Two species of benthic damselfishes from the Gulf of California, Mexico, use contrasting behaviors when feeding on benthic algal communities. The small (±70 g) Cortez damselfish, Eupomacentrus rectifraenum (Gill, 1862), feeds selectively from a multi-species algal mat, eats fleshy red and green algae and ignores brown and calcareous algae. The giant blue damselfish, Microspathodon dorsalis (Gill, 1862), is a large (±450 g), lethargic, nonselective feeder which grazes on a near monoculture of a fleshy red alga, Polysiphonia sp. Feeding activity for both species is low in the morning peaks during late afternoon, and drops sharply as night approaches. Based on feeding rates, gut-filling times, and weights of gut contents, Cortez damselfish process six to eight full guts of food and giant blue damselfish three full guts of food per day. The algal mat exhibits high standing crops (291-618 g dry wt · m-2) and low productivity, but the preferred food of the Cortez damselfish (Ulva) appears to colonize the mat frequently and grow rapidly. The Polysiphonia dominated community on giant blue damselfish territories exhibits low standing crops (23 g · m-2) and high productivity (34-47 times that of the mat per gram algae). Even though the feeding behaviors and resources used by the two damselfishes differ, both species eat similar food (delicate red and green fleshy algae, and depend on rapid colonization and/or high productivity to maintain their primary foods in the grazed algal community.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)9-24
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1980

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Aquatic Science


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