Parrotfish as a possible vector for zooxanthellae dispersal on coral reefs
The stoplight parrotfish, Sparisoma viride, is one of the dominant herbivores on the reefs of Bonaire. The effects of macroalgae herbivory have been well documented but the potential of S. viride to act as a shuttle for zooxanthellae remains unknown. Although coral is not considered a food item of S. viride they occasionally bite living tissue off of colonies of the scleractinians Montastrea annularis and Colpophyllia natans. Coral tissues contain large amounts of symbiotic dinoflagellates of the genus Symbiodinium, commonly referred to as zooxanthellae. Symbiodinium may be the key primary producer of the reef ecosystem and are found almost exclusively in symbiotic relationships with cnidarians. It is the aim of this article to examine the potential role of S. viride as a vector for transport of Symbiodinium throughout the reef environment as a result of parrotfish white spot biting. The purpose of coral biting is not known but territoriality is suspected in focused biting. Depending on the effect of parrotfish ingestion on the Symbiodinium cells, parrotfish white spot biting behavior could result in transport of Symbiodinium throughout the reef environment, increasing the genetic diversity of zooxanthellae populations.