Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
First Advisor's Name
Michael R. Heithaus
First Advisor's Committee Title
Second Advisor's Name
Craig A. Layman
Third Advisor's Name
James W. Fourqurean
Fourth Advisor's Name
Deron E. Burkepile
Fifth Advisor's Name
William T. Anderson
teleost macrograzers, trophic cascades, behaviorally-mediated trophic cascades, top-down effects, seagrass ecosystem, predator encounter rates, teleost feeding ecology, guild-dependent impacts, transplant-exclosure experiments, herbivory
Date of Defense
Trophic downgrading of ecosystems necessitates a functional understanding of trophic cascades. Identifying the presence of cascades, and the mechanisms through which they occur, is particularly important for seagrass meadows, which are among the most threatened ecosystems on Earth. Shark Bay, Western Australia provides a model system to investigate the potential importance of top-down effects in a relatively pristine seagrass ecosystem. The role of megagrazers in the Shark Bay system has been previously investigated, but the role of macrograzers (i.e., teleosts), and their importance relative to megagrazers, remains unknown. The objective of my dissertation was to elucidate the importance of teleost macrograzers in transmitting top-down effects in seagrass ecosystems. Seagrasses and macroalgae were the main food of the abundant teleost Pelates octolineatus, but stable isotopic values suggested that algae may contribute a larger portion of assimilated food than suggested by gut contents. Pelates octolineatus is at risk from numerous predators, with pied cormorants (Phalacrocorax varius) taking the majority of tethered P. octolineatus. Using a combination of fish trapping and unbaited underwater video surveillance, I found that the relative abundance of P. octolineatus was greater in interior areas of seagrass banks during the cold season, and that the mean length of P. octolineatus was greater in these areas compared to along edges of banks. Finally, I used seagrass transplants and exclosure experiments to determine the relative effect of megagrazers and macrograzers on the establishment and persistence of three species of seagrasses in interior microhabitats. Teleost grazing had the largest impact on seagrass species with the highest nutrient content, and these impacts were primarily observed during the warm season. My findings are consistent with predictions of a behaviorally-mediated trophic cascade initiated by tiger sharks (Galeocerdo cuvier) and transmitted through herbivorous fishes and their predators.
Bessey, Cindy, "The Role of Teleost Grazers in a Relatively Pristine Seagrass Ecosystem" (2013). FIU Electronic Theses and Dissertations. 911.
In Copyright. URI: http://rightsstatements.org/vocab/InC/1.0/
This Item is protected by copyright and/or related rights. You are free to use this Item in any way that is permitted by the copyright and related rights legislation that applies to your use. For other uses you need to obtain permission from the rights-holder(s).