Underwater observations on fish and asteroid consumers (i.e. predators and scavengers) of sea urchins, Paracentrotus lividus and Arbacia lixula, were carried out at several locations in shallow Mediterranean rocky reefs. Observations conducted in the marine reserve of Torre Guaceto (Adriatic Sea) revealed that sparid fishes, Diplodus sargus and D. vulgaris, are the main fish predators of small (<1 cm in test diameter) and medium (14 cm) sea urchins, whereas the labrids Coris julis and Thalassoma pavo preyed only upon small sea urchins. Large D. sargus were able to prey upon small and medium, and occasionally large (>4 cm) sea urchins, whereas medium and small Diplodus preyed mainly upon small sea urchins. The number of sea urchins preyed upon by fishes was negatively related to sea urchin size for both species. P. lividus appeared to be subject to higher predation levels than A. lixula. The scavenger guild comprised 11 fish species, with D. sargus, D. vulgaris, Coris julis and Chromis chromis accounting for about 80% of scavenger fishes. Observations performed at several locations in the Mediterranean on the predatory asteroid Marthasterias glacialis revealed that only 3% of the detected individuals were preying upon sea urchins. Due to the importance of sea urchins for assemblage structure and functioning of Mediterranean rocky reef ecosystems, these results may have also important implications for management of fishing activities.
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