Feeding ecology of fishes associated with artificial reefs in the northwest Gulf of Mexico. Academic Article uri icon


  • The feeding ecology of two reef fishes associated with artificial reefs in the northwest Gulf of Mexico (GoM) was examined using gut contents and natural stable isotopes. Reefs were divided into three regions (east, central, west) across an east to west gradient of increasing reef complexity and salinity. Gray triggerfish (Balistes capriscus) primarily consumed reef-associated prey (xanthid crabs, bivalves, barnacles) and pelagic gastropods, while red snapper (Lutjanus campechanus) diets were mainly comprised of non-reef prey (stomatopods, fishes, portunid crabs). Natural stable isotopes of carbon (13C), nitrogen (15N), and sulfur (34S) were measured in consumer muscle tissue as well as potential primary producers. Gray triggerfish occupied a lower trophic position than red snapper, with lower 13C and 15N values across all size classes and regions, and generally higher 34S values. Red snapper had a smaller range of stable isotope values and corrected standard ellipse areas across all size classes and regions, indicating a smaller isotopic niche. Contribution estimates of particulate organic matter (26 to 54%) and benthic microalgae (BMA, 47 to 74%) for both species were similar, with BMA contributions greater across all three size classes (juveniles, sub-adults, adults) of red snapper and all but the juvenile size class for gray triggerfish. Species gut contents and stable isotopes differed by region, with fishes consuming more crabs in the east region and more gastropods in the central and west regions. 13C and 15N values generally decreased from east to west, while 34S increased across this gradient. Results highlight species-specific feeding differences associated with artificial reefs, where gray triggerfish may be more dependent on the reef structure for foraging opportunities. In addition, results offer further information on the integral role of BMA in primary production at nearshore artificial reefs.

published proceedings

  • PLoS One

author list (cited authors)

  • Dance, K. M., Rooker, J. R., Shipley, J. B., Dance, M. A., & Wells, R.

citation count

  • 21

complete list of authors

  • Dance, Kaylan M||Rooker, Jay R||Shipley, J Brooke||Dance, Michael A||Wells, RJ David

editor list (cited editors)

  • Patterson, H. M.

publication date

  • October 2018