Open Access

Direct observations of resource sharing in coral reef fish

  • C. L. Smith1 and
  • J. C. Tyler1
Helgoländer wissenschaftliche Meeresuntersuchungen24:BF01609517


1. A full understanding of the community ecology of coral reef fishes must be based on an understanding of how fishes interact to share the available resources of the reef environment.

2. The goal of such studies is the construction of suitable models that can be used to predict the effects of environmental changes. The validity of such predictions is a test of the adequacy of the model.

3. The data on which models can be based are obtained in a combination of three approaches: (a) sampling, (b) laboratory experiments and (c) direct observation.

4. Direct observations can be made by viewing from the surface, by the use of underwater chambers, by submersible vehicles, by underwater television and by diving.

5. The use of diving techniques is limited by visibility, temperature and depth. Diving time can be extended by saturated diving from an underwater habitat.

6. The critical areas for information about coral reef fish communities are: census, population dynamics, natural history and behavior, space sharing and food sharing.

7. Complex communities can be analyzed by successively categorizing the species according to each of these aspects until the unique niche of each species is defined.

8. The most pressing need in the study of coral reef fish ecology is for continuous monitoring of representative stations throughout complete seasonal cycles.