The Noronha wrasse: a “jack-of-all-trades” follower

Sazima, Cristina, Bolando, Roberta Martini, Krajewsk, João Paulo and Ivan Sazima

aqua, International Journal of Ichthyology, pp. 97-108, Volume 9, Issue 3 – March 2005


Following association between reef fishes involves opportunistic predators following one or more foraging nuclear species (mainly bottom-diggers). The followers benefit from food uncovered or flushed out when reef fishes disturb the bottom. At the Fernando de Noronha Archipelago, south-west Atlantic, we recorded the plankton eater, benthic invertebrate picker, and cleaner wrasse Thalassoma noronhanum, commonly known as the Noronha wrasse, acting as a very flexible feeder – a kind of “jack-of-all-trades” – while following reef fishes. The Noronha wrasse associated with 15 reef fish species, feeding on drifting particles made available as the latter foraged on the bottom. The wrasse displayed four types of feeding behaviour while following foraging reef fishes: 1) eating particles stirred up; 2) eating particles expelled by the foraging fish; 3) eating faecal particles; 4) cleaning fish. The wrasse was commonly recorded following the parrotfishes Sparisoma frondosum, S. axillare, S. amplum, and the grunt Haemulon parra. The variable feeding behaviour here recorded for T. noronhanum while following reef fishes seems rare among follower fish species. Nevertheless, some wrasse species have very opportunistic foraging habits as well, which render them likely candidates to display flexible feeding behaviour.

Full Text | PDF (416 KB)


Altmann, J. 1974. Observational study of behavior: sampling methods. Behaviour, 49 (3,4): 227-265.

Aronson, R. B. & S. L. Sanderson. 1987. Benefits of heterospecific foraging by the Caribbean wrasse, Halichoeres garnoti (Pisces: Labridae). Environmental Biology of Fishes, 18: 303-308.

Baird, T. A. 1993. A new heterospecific foraging association between the puddingwife wrasse, Halichoeres radiatus, and the bar jack, Caranx ruber: evaluation of the foraging consequences. Environmental Biology of Fishes, 38: 393-397.

Booth, L. & J. A. Peters. 1972. Behavioural studies on the green turtle (Chelonia mydas) in the sea. Animal Behaviour, 20 (4): 808-812.

Carleton, M. D. & S. L. Olson. 1999. Amerigo Vespucci and the rat of Fernando de Noronha: a new genus and species of Rodentia (Muridae: Sigmodontinae) from a volcanic island off Brazil’s continental shelf. American Museum Novitates, 3256: 1-59.

Carvalho-Filho, A. 1999. Peixes: costa brasileira. Melro, São Paulo, 304 pp.

DeLoach, N. 1999. Reef Fish Behavior: Florida, Caribbean, Bahamas. New World Publications, Jacksonville, 359 pp.

Debelius, H. 1993. Indian ocean, tropical fish guide. Aquaprint, Neu Isenburg, 321 pp.

Diamant, A. & M. Shpigel. 1985. Interspecific feeding association of groupers (Teleostei: Serranidae) with octopuses and moray eels in the Gulf of Eilat (Aqaba). Environmental Biology of Fishes, 13: 153-159.

Dubin, R. E. 1982. Behavioral interactions between Caribbean reef fish and eels (Muraenidae and Ophichthidae). Copeia, 1982 (1): 229-232.

Feitoza, B. M., Dias, T. L. P., Rocha, L. A. & J. L. Gasparini. 2002. First record of cleaning activity in the slippery dick, Halichoeres bivittatus (Perciformes: Labridae), off northeastern Brazil. aqua, Journal of Ichthyology and Aquatic Biology, 5 (2): 73-76.

Fishelson, L. 1977. Sociobiology of feeding behavior of coral fish along the coral reef of the Gulf of Elat (=Gulf of ‘Aqaba), Red Sea. Israel Journal of Zoology, 26: 114-134.

Floeter, S. R. & J. L. Gasparini. 2000. The southwestern Atlantic reef fish fauna: composition and zoogeographic patterns. Journal of Fish Biology, 56: 1099-1114.

Francini-Filho, R. B., Moura, R. L. & I. Sazima. 2000. Cleaning by the wrasse Thalassoma noronhanum, with two records of predation by its grouper client Cephalopholis fulva. Journal of Fish Biology, 56: 802- 809.

Fricke, H. W. 1975. The role of behaviour in marine symbiotic animals. In: Symbiosis, Symposia of the Society for Experimental Biology 29 (Eds. D. H. Jennings and D. L. Lee): 581-594. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.

Froese, R. & D. Pauly (Eds.) 2004. FishBase. World Wide Web electronic publication. Gerking, S. D. 1994. Feeding ecology of fish. Academic Press, California, 416 pp.

Gibran, F. Z. 2002. The sea basses Diplectrum formosumand D. radiale (Serranidae) as followers of the sea star Luidia senegalensis (Asteroidea) in southeastern Brazil. Brazilian Journal of Biology, 62 (4A): 591-594.

Harmelin-Vivien, M. L. 2002. Energetics and fish diversity on coral reefs. In: Coral reef fishes: dynamics and diversity in a complex ecosystem (Ed. P.F. Sale): 265-274. Academic Press, San Diego.

Helfman, G. S., Collette, B. B. & D. E. Facey. 1997. The diversity of fishes. Blackwell Science, Oxford, 528 pp.

Hobson, E. S. 1968. Predatory behavior of some shore fishes in the Gulf of California. United States Fish and Wildlife Service Research Report, 73: 1-92.

Hobson, E. S. 1974. Feeding relationships of teleostean fishes on coral reefs in Kona, Hawaii. Fishery Bulletin, 72: 915-1031.

Hobson, E. S. 1991. Trophic relationships of fishes specialized to feed on zooplankters above coral reefs. In: The ecology of fishes on coral reefs (Ed. P.F. Sale): 69-95. Academic Press, San Diego. Humann, P. 2002. Reef fish identification: Florida, Caribbean, Bahamas. New World Publications, Jacksonville, 481 pp.

Itzkowitz, M. 1979. The feeding strategies of a facultative cleanerfish, Thalassoma bifasciatum (Pisces: Labridae). Journal of Zoology, London, 187: 403-413.

Lehner, P. N. 1979. Handbook of ethological methods. Garland STPM Press, New York, 403 pp. Losey, G. S. 1987. Cleaning symbiosis. Symbiosis, 4: 229-258.

Losey, G. S., Balazs, G. H. & L. A. Privitera. 1994.

Cleaning symbiosis between the wrasse Thalassoma duperrey, and the green turtle Chelonia mydas. Copeia, 1994: 684-690.

Losey, G. S. 1971. Communication between fishes in cleaning symbiosis. In: Aspects of the Biology of Symbiosis (Ed T.C. Cheng): 45-76. University Park Press, Baltimore.

Lukoschek, V. & M. I. McCormick. 2000. A review of multi-species foraging associations in fishes and their ecological significance. Proceedings of the 9th International Coral Reef Symposium, 1: 467-474.

Maida, M. & B. P. Ferreira. 1997. Coral reefs of Brazil: an overview. Proceedings of the 8th International Coral Reef Symposium, 1: 263-274.

Nelson, J. S. 1994. Fishes of the world. John Wiley & Sons, New York, 600 pp.

Ogden, J. C. & N. S. Buckman. 1973. Movements, foraging groups, and diurnal migrations of the striped parrotfish Scarus croicensis Bloch (Scaridae). Ecology, 54 (3): 589-596.

Ormond, R. F. G. 1980. Aggressive mimicry and other interspecific feeding associations among Red Sea coral reef predators. Journal of Zoology, London, 191: 247-262.

Randall, J. E. 1967. Food habits of reef fishes of the West Indies. Studies on Tropical Oceanography, 5: 665-847.

Rocha, L. A., Guimarães, R. Z. P. & J. L. Gasparini. 2001. Redescription of the Brazilian wrasse Thalassoma noronhanum (Boulenger, 1890) (Teleostei: Labridae). aqua, Journal of Ichthyology and Aquatic Biology, 4 (3): 105-108.

Sazima, C., Grossman, A., Bellini, C. & I. Sazima. 2004. The moving gardens: reef fishes grazing, cleaning, and following green turtles in SW Atlantic. Cybium, 28 (1): 47-53.

Sazima, I. 1986. Similarities in feeding behaviour between some marine and freshwater fishes in two tropical communities. Journal of Fish Biology, 29: 53-65.

Sazima, I., Sazima, C. & J. M. Silva-Jr. 2003. The cetacean offal connection: feces and vomits of spinner dolphins as a food source for reef fishes. Bulletin of Marine Science, 72 (1): 151-160.

Smith, C. L. 1997. National Audubon Society Field Guide to Tropical Marine Fishes of the Caribbean, the Gulf of Mexico, Florida, the Bahamas, and Bermudas. Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 718 pp.

Soares, M. S. C. & J. P. Barreiros. 2003. Following associations with the striped red mullet Mullus surmuletus Linnaeus, 1758 (Perciformes: Mullidae) from the Azores. aqua, Journal of Ichthyology and Aquatic Biology, 7 (4): 139-144.

Strand, S. 1988. Following behavior: interspecific foraging associations among Gulf of California reef fishes. Copeia, 1988 (2): 351-357.

Tresher, R. E. 1979. Social behavior and ecology of two sympatric wrasses (Labridae: Halichoeres spp.) off the coast of Florida. Marine Biology, 53: 161-172.

Wainwright, P. C. & D. R. Bellwood. 2002. Ecomorphology of feeding in coral reef fishes. In: Coral reef fishes, dynamics and diversity in a complex ecosystem (Ed. P.F. Sale): 33-55. Academic Press, San Diego.

Previous post

A new species of the genus Nothobranchius (Cyprinodontiformes: Nothobranchiidae) from the Luapula River basin, Zambia

Next post

Vanderhorstia nannai, a new species of burrow-associated goby from Palau and the Philippines (Pisces: Gobiidae)

The Author



No Comment

Leave a reply