Document Type



Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor's Name

Deron E. Burkepile

First Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Chair

Second Advisor's Name

Michael R. Heithaus

Second Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Member

Third Advisor's Name

James W. Fourqurean

Third Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Member

Fourth Advisor's Name

Jennifer S. Rehage

Fourth Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Member

Fifth Advisor's Name

Joel C. Trexler

Fifth Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Member


non-consumptive effects, predator effects, herbivore, coral reef, predation risk, food webs

Date of Defense



Predators exert strong direct and indirect effects on ecological communities by intimidating their prey. Non-consumptive effects (NCEs) of predators are important features of many ecosystems and have changed the way we understand predator-prey interactions, but are not well understood in some systems. For my dissertation research I combined a variety of approaches to examine the effect of predation risk on herbivore foraging and reproductive behaviors in a coral reef ecosystem. In the first part of my dissertation, I investigated how diet and territoriality of herbivorous fish varied across multiple reefs with different levels of predator biomass in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. I show that both predator and damselfish abundance impacted diet diversity within populations for two herbivores in different ways. Additionally, reef protection and the associated recovery of large predators appeared to shape the trade-off reef herbivores made between territory size and quality. In the second part of my dissertation, I investigated context-dependent causal linkages between predation risk, herbivore foraging behavior and resource consumption in multiple field experiments. I found that reef complexity, predator hunting mode, light availability and prey hunger influenced prey perception of threat and their willingness to feed. This research argues for more emphasis on the role of predation risk in affecting individual herbivore foraging behavior in order to understand the implications of human-mediated predator removal and recovery in coral reef ecosystems.





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