Publication Details

Hing, M. L., Klanten, O., Dowton, M., Brown, K. R. & Wong, M. Y. L. (2018). Repeated cyclone events reveal potential causes of sociality in coral-dwelling Gobiodon fishes. PLoS One, 13 (9), e0202407-1-e0202407-22.


Social organization is a key factor influencing a species' foraging and reproduction, which may ultimately affect their survival and ability to recover from catastrophic disturbance. Severe weather events such as cyclones can have devastating impacts to the physical structure of coral reefs and on the abundance and distribution of its faunal communities. Despite the importance of social organization to a species' survival, relatively little is known about how major disturbances such as tropical cyclones may affect social structures or how different social strategies affect a species' ability to cope with disturbance. We sampled group sizes and coral sizes of group-forming and pair-forming species of the Gobiid genus Gobiodon at Lizard Island, Great Barrier Reef, Australia, before and after two successive category 4 tropical cyclones. Group sizes of group-forming species decreased after each cyclone, but showed signs of recovery four months after the first cyclone. A similar increase in group sizes was not evident in group-forming species after the second cyclone. There was no change in mean pair-forming group size after either cyclone. Coral sizes inhabited by both group- and pair-forming species decreased throughout the study, meaning that group-forming species were forced to occupy smaller corals on average than before cyclone activity. This may reduce their capacity to maintain larger group sizes through multiple processes. We discuss these patterns in light of two non-exclusive hypotheses regarding the drivers of sociality in Gobiodon, suggesting that benefits of philopatry with regards to habitat quality may underpin the formation of social groups in this genus.



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