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Reef fish food web, Greater Antilles

Here are a couple of renderings of the vertebrate-only component of the coral reef food web. Reminder: the food web is what we expect to see for a reef in the Greater Antilles of the Caribbean, based on data collected around the mid-20th century. The vertebrate component comprises all fish and sea turtle species. The upper figure is the expected food web, and includes 196 species and 995 trophic interactions. Species are arranged on the periphery of the diagram, with interaction represented by the lines crossing the interior. The very busy, or hub species are higher trophic level predators, mostly carcharhinid sharks.

Jamaica coral reef fish food web

The lower figure is what we observe today in Jamaica. (Note: Jamaica is of particular interest for me as a starting comparison, both because of the excellent documentation of those reefs, and my Jamaican heritage; not picking on Jamaica). The number of species, out of 196, observed there over the past 10 years is dramatically smaller. Perhaps more obvious is the loss of interactions. I won’t present the actual data yet, since we will eventually prepare a paper to report all this, but the differences between the two food webs are obvious. We are currently rendering the complete food web, including primary producers and invertebrates, which will be an update of the figures presented in earlier posts. But there are a lot of species in there, and the computers have been churning now for about 17 hours!

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