†Environmental Studies Program, Macquarie University, North Ryde, NSW 21 13, Australia.
The behaviour of chaetodontid fishes with special reference to Lorenz' “poster colouration” hypothesis*
Article first published online: 20 AUG 2009
Journal of Zoology
Volume 183, Issue 2, pages 213–228, October 1977
How to Cite
Ehrlich1, P. R., Talbot2,†, F. H., Russell2,†, B. C. and Anderson2,†, G. R. V. (1977), The behaviour of chaetodontid fishes with special reference to Lorenz' “poster colouration” hypothesis. Journal of Zoology, 183: 213–228. doi: 10.1111/j.1469-7998.1977.tb04183.x
*Contribution No. 1 from the Lizard Island Research Station.
- Issue published online: 20 AUG 2009
- Article first published online: 20 AUG 2009
- Accepted 9 November 1976
Behaviour of chaetodontid fishes relevant to Lorenz's “poster colouration” hypothesis has been studied. Field observations of 20 species at Lizard Island, Great Barrier Reef, showed that these chaetodontids rove over large areas of reef, occurring singly or in pairs and sometimes sizeable groups. The behaviour of chaetodontids does not support the supposed explanation of poster colours as intra-specific sign stimuli serving to space individuals. During daytime, agonistic encounters are rare, even amongst groups, and for most species there is no evidence of territoriality. Experiments presenting painted and blank chaetodontid models to eight species generally confirmed these observations. At dusk and dawn, chaetodontids are aggressive and defend regular night-resting places. Agonistic encounters though, are both intra- and inter-specific; they serve to space individuals over only very small distances, and colouration seems to have little warning value. The question of the functional significance of poster colours remains largely unsolved. Amongst chaetodontids, territoriality clearly is not a major function and the evidence suggests that other kinds of social communication, as well as predator avoidance, have probably been important in the evolution of poster colouration.