Defend Against Predators or Run? Evolutionary Tradeoffs in Butterflyfish

Jennifer Hodge - Butterflyfish
The Longnose Butterflyfish hunts for prey on the sea floor. Butterflyfish with this feeding habit rely more on physical defense against predators and less on hiding among coral, UC Davis research has found. Clark Anderson/Aquaimages

But this hypothesis has been difficult to test in practice. Now Jennifer Hodge, a postdoctoral researcher working with Professor Peter Wainwright and colleagues in the UC Davis Department of Evolution and Ecology, College of Biological Sciences, has carried out a survey of hundreds of species of butterflyfish, carefully measuring their physical traits and defenses compared to feeding style.

The results support the notion of a tradeoff between physical defense and predator avoidance but also point to the importance of coral reefs for these fish.

Read the full story to learn more about this Longnose Butterflyfish.