This Goat Is a Hero

Goatfish

A Marine Life Series Column about goatfish and the critical role they play in reef ecosystems

"Classified as a “nuclear” species, goatfish truly play a leadership role.  Other species are attracted to the substratum-disturbing foraging.   And when several goatfish are involved in the fray, the groupies increase in number and diversity.

Single goatfish usually have up to three “follower” species at a time.  Goatfish groups attract up to six follower species.  These are primarily benthic carnivores.  When critical mass is reached, the crowd includes herbivores that swoop in for the algae present in the cloud.  There were no documented instances of herbivores following a single nuclear goatfish - they stated it only occurred in a group setting of eight or more goatfish.

The top five followers in the Brazilian study were puddingwife, coney, yellow jack, horse-eye jack and red parrotfish.  I don’t ever recall (basically because I never really paid that much attention) seeing that particular mix of species hanging out with a goatfish.  In the Keys I have seen them with yellowhead wrasse quite often. I’ll pay more attention now if it helps me get closer to a puddingwife.  In my experience they are typically shy and difficult to approach, but the colors are terrific if you can get close enough to illuminate them."

About the author

Tim Grollimund

Tim is based in Key Largo, Florida. He wrote the scuba diving column for the local newspaper, The Reporter, for over three years, and also served as a Working Group member and Alternate Representative on the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary Advisory Council. His ebooks are all based on his newspaper columns. Each ebook has a collection of underwater images shot by Tim. The ebooks cover a wide range of marine life species and ocean conservation topics.

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