Bocas del Toro Research Station

Research Projects

Stephen Barnes

University of Hawaii

"A multidisciplinary approach to species boundaries in tropical reef corals"

Little is known about the effects of bioeroders on coral reef zonation. Corals develop an array of defenses to combat predation. Corals use chemicals to deter predators; others form a dense skeleton making it difficult for predators to consume them, while others find refuge in areas of the reef where the predators are not found. My area of study focuses on coral species that have found a safe haven from predation by parrotfish. Parrotfish can play a large role in where some coral species are found on the reef. In the Caribbean the Stoplight Parrotfish, Sparisoma viride, is known to consume live corals, including the hard calcium carbonate skeleton.

I am conducting two separate experiments to test the effect of parrotfish predation on coral zonation: 1) a transplant experiment to determine the difference in coral growth rates between depths and 2) a predation experiment which will allow parrotfish to choose which coral they prefer. Buoyant weight and in situ observations will be used to determine growth and predation, respectively. Finally, I will examine the larval behavior of the free-living species, Manicina areolata with respect to biochemical, depth and light settlement cues to better understand larval behavior.

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