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Overview

Comprehensive Description

Biology

Adults inhabit coral-rich areas of lagoon and seaward reefs from below the surge zone to about 46 m (Ref. 9710). Benthopelagic over rock at 1-81 m (Ref. 58302). They occur singly or in loose groups. Mainly herbivorous, browsing on filamentous algae. Group spawning and pair-spawning by territorial males that court passing females were observed. Spawning activity occurs around the full moon indicating lunar periodicity (Ref. 86544). Spawn in batches throughout the year (Ref. 86544). Presence of a venom gland could not be determined despite the presence of distinct anterolateral grooves; this may be due to the loss of venom glands in adults (Ref. 57406). A popular aquarium fish and the top marine fish export from Hawaii.
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Distribution

Range Description

Zebrasoma flavescens is found in the central and western Pacific from the Hawaiian Islands and Johnston Island to the Marshall Islands, Wake, Mariana Islands, Philippines, Ogasawara and Ryukyu Islands, Japan. It was also recorded from southern Taiwan.

Sightings of Z. flavescens were made at three sites in southern Florida by the REEF Fish Survey Project between 1993 and 2002. These were the result of a deliberate aquarium release. The authors report this species did not establish itself and there was no significant impact to the community composition of local fish (Semmens et al. 2004).
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Pacific Ocean: Ryukyu, Mariana, Marshall, Marcus, Wake and Hawaiian islands. Has been reported off the coast of Florida in the Western Central Atlantic (Ref. 51238).
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Geographic Range

Yellow tangs, Zebrasoma scopas, are reef fish found in the waters west of Hawaii and east of Japan in the Pacific Ocean. They mainly live off the coast of Hawaii, but are also found in the more western ranges of their habitat, including the islands Ryukyu, Mariana, Marshall, Marcus, and Wake. They prefer subtropical waters.

Biogeographic Regions: pacific ocean (Native )

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Western and Central Pacific: Micronesia east to Hawaiian Islands, north to southern Japan; possibly Grande Terre and Loyalty Islands (New Caledonia).
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Physical Description

Morphology

Dorsal spines (total): 5; Dorsal soft rays (total): 23 - 26; Analspines: 3; Analsoft rays: 19 - 22
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Physical Description

Yellow tangs have a clear larval stage before developing into juveniles. Juveniles and adults have a narrow, oval body. They have an average length-weight ratio between 2.93 and 3.16. They have a long snout for eating algae, a large dorsal fin with four to five spines, and an anal fin with three spines. Like other surgeonfish and tangs (Acanthuridae), yellow tangs have a white, scalpel-like spine on both sides of the tail that can be used for defense or aggression. Yellow tangs are named for their bright yellow coloring; the only area that is not yellow is the white spine. At night, this bright yellow color changes to a darker, grayer yellow with a white lateral line.

Range length: 20 (high) cm.

Other Physical Features: ectothermic ; heterothermic ; bilateral symmetry

Sexual Dimorphism: sexes alike

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Size

Maximum size: 200 mm NG
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Max. size

20.0 cm TL (male/unsexed; (Ref. 9710))
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Yellow tang are sexually size-dimorphic with males being larger than females. Males grow substantially faster than females starting around age 2 and this trend continues until the asymptotic size is approached (age 7 to 10 years). Adult males are typically 17 to 20 cm long, while adult females are typically 14 to 17 cm long.

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Diagnostic Description

Description

Inhabits coral rich areas of lagoon and seaward reefs from below the surge zone to at least 46 m. Occurs singly or in loose groups and browses on filamentous algae. A popular aquarium fish and the top marine fish export from Hawaii. Group spawning and pair-spawning by territorial males that court passing females were observed.
  • Anon. (1996). FishBase 96 [CD-ROM]. ICLARM: Los Baños, Philippines. 1 cd-rom pp.
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bright yellow overall (pale in preservative). Sheath of peduncular spine white. Body very deep, its depth 1.4 to 1.75 times in SL. Snout moderately protruding. Mouth small; teeth spatulate, close-set, the edges denticulate. 12 upper and 14 lower teeth in juveniles, and 18 upper and 22 lower teeth in an adult 15 cm SL (Ref 9808).
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Ecology

Habitat

Habitat and Ecology

Habitat and Ecology
Yellow Tang (Zebrasoma flavescens) is found in inshore coral reefs, protected bay and lagoons. It may be seen in less than 1 m, but occurs deeper on exposed outer-reef areas (Randall 2001a). It is classified as a grazer/detritivore (Choat 1991). Yellow Tang in the west coast of the Hawaiian Island settle primarily into mid-depth (10 to 25 m) reef habitat with a high percentage of coral cover (Walsh 1984, Ortiz and Tissot 2008, Claisse et al. 2009). Males and females of this species in West Hawaii each showed a clear ontogenetic pattern of habitat use. When Yellow Tang reach sexual maturity, adults leave the deeper coral reef areas for shallower reef habitat. For females this occurs at approximately 4-5 years of age and for males at age 5-7 years (Claisse et al. 2009).

The ontogenetic habitat shift in Yellow Tang coincides with the size at which there is a clear increase in reproductive output. The sexual difference in size at habitat transition, combined with sexual size dimorphism (mean asymptotic maximum length - male: 17.9 cm; female: 15.6 cm) results in differences in size distributions of both sexes in the two habitats (Claisse et al. 2009).

Growth

Yellow Tang is a long-lived species; the oldest individual collected was 41 yrs old (Claisse et al. 2009). It displays the typical Acanthurid square growth curve with high initial growth rates that rapidly decrease after the first few years (Choat and Axe 1996, Choat and Robertson 2002). Yellow Tang exhibits sexual difference in growth. Growth rates for both sexes are 300 mm per year during the first year of life to (0 to 1 yr), but males grow substantially faster than females from year 2 to 3, a trend that continues until the asymptotic size is approached. Sexual size dimorphism resulted from a higher growth rate for males through the juvenile period (Claisse et al. 2009)

Reproduction

Yellow Tang is gonochoristic (Bushnell 2007) and like its sister species, Zebrasoma scopas (Guiasu and Winterbottom 1998, Clements et al. 2003), is macroandric (Robertson 1985). The sexes are separate among the acanthurids (Reeson 1983). There is possibility of sexual dimorphism in Zebrasomas with cloacas bigger in females (Bushnell et al. 2010). Annual fecundity for an average adult Yellow Tang female is estimated at 1,055,628 (SE 120,596) eggs per year. (Bushnell et al. 2010). Size at maturity for females is 132 mm TL (5.1 yrs), which is the median size/age at which they migrate to adult habitat (Claisse et al. 2009, Bushnell et al. 2010).

Yellow Tang in West Hawaii make crepuscular migrations away from daytime shallow turf-dominated foraging habitat to spawn at sunset in the deeper coral-rich habitat, primarily along the edge of the deeper reef slope (Walsh 1984). Each evening males return repeatedly to the same temporary spawning territory (J.T. Claisse unpub. data) and court passing females in what has been described as a linear lek (Loiselle and Barlow 1978, Walsh 1984).

In Hawaii, peaks in recruitment of this species occur during the summer months from June to August. There was considerable inter-annual variability in the recruitment of this species over a 51 month period with 80 recruits during 1977 compared with a maximum of 15 per year in the following years (Walsh 1987).

In Johnston Atoll peaks in spawning of Yellow Tang occur during the outgoing tide, when current velocity is greatest and occurred predominately in the reef channel (Sancho et al. 2000). In the same location they are group spawners, with a promiscuous mating system, releasing pelagic eggs between 16:00-18:00 hrs.


Systems
  • Marine
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Environment

reef-associated; marine; depth range 2 - 46 m (Ref. 9710), usually 3 - 46 m (Ref. 27115)
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Yellow tangs are reef-associated fish. Their preferred water temperature is around 21 degrees Celsius. They inhabit coral reefs in subtropical waters, but generally do not live in tropical seas. Yellow tangs mainly live in the sub-surge zone of a coral reef, this is the area with the least wave action. Zebrasoma scopas live at depths of 2 to 46 meters. The clear larva of yellow tangs develop into marine plankton, in this stage they are carried close to reefs where they settle in coral crevices.

Range depth: 2 to 46 m.

Habitat Regions: tropical ; saltwater or marine

Aquatic Biomes: reef

  • Reynolds, W., M. Casterlin. 1980. Thermoregulatory behavior of a tropical reef fish, Zebrasoma flavescens. OIKOS, 34: 356-358.
  • Ogawa, T., C. Brown. 2001. Ornamental reef fish aquaculture and collection in Hawaii. Aquarium Sciences and Conservation, 3: 151-169.
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Depth range based on 4 specimens in 1 taxon.
Water temperature and chemistry ranges based on 4 samples.

Environmental ranges
  Depth range (m): 0.65 - 113
  Temperature range (°C): 19.338 - 26.159
  Nitrate (umol/L): 0.125 - 7.186
  Salinity (PPS): 34.644 - 35.031
  Oxygen (ml/l): 3.958 - 4.806
  Phosphate (umol/l): 0.143 - 0.544
  Silicate (umol/l): 1.479 - 14.325

Graphical representation

Depth range (m): 0.65 - 113

Temperature range (°C): 19.338 - 26.159

Nitrate (umol/L): 0.125 - 7.186

Salinity (PPS): 34.644 - 35.031

Oxygen (ml/l): 3.958 - 4.806

Phosphate (umol/l): 0.143 - 0.544

Silicate (umol/l): 1.479 - 14.325
 
Note: this information has not been validated. Check this *note*. Your feedback is most welcome.

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Depth: 2 - 46m.
From 2 to 46 meters.

Habitat: reef-associated.
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Yellow tang settle out of a planktonic larval stage to mid-depth (10 to 25 m) reef habitats that tend to have high coral cover. Adult yellow tang (AYT) transition at around 13 to 15 cm total length to spending their days foraging in shallower (<10 m) turf-algae dominated boulder and reef flat habitats, while sheltering at night in deeper coral rich and boulder habitats.

Each morning, shortly after sunrise, adult yellow tang migrate to shallow turf algae dominated boulder and reef flat habitats to forage over the same few hundred meters squared. These foraging sites are maintained for periods of at least weeks to months. About 1 hour before sunset, they migrate to individual specific spawning locations before moving to nighttime sheltering sites in deeper coral rich and boulder dominated habitats.

  • Claisse JT, Kienzle M, Bushnell ME, Shafer DJ, Parrish JD (2009) Habitat- and sex-specific life history patterns of yellow tang Zebrasoma flavescens in Hawaii, USA. Marine Ecology Progress Series 389: 245-255 http://www.coralreefnetwork.com/kona/Claisse_et_al.2009_YT_Age_Growth_Habitat.pdf
  • Claisse JT, Clark TB, Schumacher BD, McTee SA, Bushnell ME, Callan CK, Laidley CW, Parrish JD (2011) Conventional tagging and acoustic telemetry of a small surgeonfish, Zebrasoma flavescens, in a structurally complex coral reef environment. Environmental Biology of Fishes 91: 185-201
  • http://www.springerlink.com/content/c7514t4684464jm6/
  • Ortiz DM, Tissot BN (2008) Ontogenetic patterns of habitat use by reef-fish in a Marine Protected Area network: a multi-scaled remote sensing and in situ approach. Marine Ecology Progress Series 365: 217-232
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Migration

Each morning, shortly after sunrise, adult yellow tang migrate to shallow turf algae dominated boulder and reef flat habitats to forage over the same few hundred meters squared. These foraging sites are maintained for periods of at least weeks to months. About 1 hour before sunset, they migrate to individual specific spawning locations before moving to nighttime sheltering sites in deeper coral rich and boulder dominated habitats. Yellow tang adults made daily crepuscular migrations of up to 600 m between foraging and spawning or sheltering sites at consistent times relative to sunset and sunrise Yellow tang juveniles are found in deeper coral rich habitats and are site attached with small home ranges throughout this life stage (roughly 4-7 years).

  • Claisse JT, Kienzle M, Bushnell ME, Shafer DJ, Parrish JD (2009) Habitat- and sex-specific life history patterns of yellow tang Zebrasoma flavescens in Hawaii, USA. Marine Ecology Progress Series 389: 245-255 http://www.coralreefnetwork.com/kona/Claisse_et_al.2009_YT_Age_Growth_Habitat.pdf
  • Claisse JT, Clark TB, Schumacher BD, McTee SA, Bushnell ME, Callan CK, Laidley CW, Parrish JD (2011) Conventional tagging and acoustic telemetry of a small surgeonfish, Zebrasoma flavescens, in a structurally complex coral reef environment. Environmental Biology of Fishes 91: 185-201
  • http://www.springerlink.com/content/c7514t4684464jm6/
  • Ortiz DM, Tissot BN (2008) Ontogenetic patterns of habitat use by reef-fish in a Marine Protected Area network: a multi-scaled remote sensing and in situ approach. Marine Ecology Progress Series 365: 217-232
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Each morning, shortly after sunrise, adult yellow tang migrate to shallow turf algae dominated boulder and reef flat habitats to forage over the same few hundred meters squared. These foraging sites are maintained for periods of at least weeks to months. About 1 hour before sunset, they migrate to individual specific spawning locations before moving to nighttime sheltering sites in deeper coral rich and boulder dominated habitats.

Yellow tang adults made daily crepuscular migrations of up to 600 m between foraging and spawning or sheltering sites at consistent times relative to sunset and sunrise

Yellow tang juveniles are found in deeper coral rich habitats and are site attached with small home ranges throughout this life stage (roughly 4-7 years).

  • Claisse JT, Clark TB, Schumacher BD, McTee SA, Bushnell ME, Callan CK, Laidley CW, Parrish JD (2011) Conventional tagging and acoustic telemetry of a small surgeonfish, Zebrasoma flavescens, in a structurally complex coral reef environment. Environmental Biology of Fishes 91: 185-201
  • http://www.springerlink.com/content/c7514t4684464jm6/
  • • Claisse JT, Kienzle M, Bushnell ME, Shafer DJ, Parrish JD (2009) Habitat- and sex-specific life history patterns of yellow tang Zebrasoma flavescens in Hawaii, USA. Marine Ecology Progress Series 389: 245-255
  • http://www.coralreefnetwork.com/kona/Claisse_et_al.2009_YT_Age_Growth_Habitat.pdf
  • Ortiz DM, Tissot BN (2008) Ontogenetic patterns of habitat use by reef-fish in a Marine Protected Area network: a multi-scaled remote sensing and in situ approach. Marine Ecology Progress Series 365: 217-232
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Trophic Strategy

Food Habits

Yellow tangs have a long, down-turned mouth with small teeth that are specialized for grazing on algae. Because they are mainly herbivores, they spend a large amount of their time grazing either alone or in groups. A large portion of their diet consists of uncalcified and filamentous algae that grows on coral reefs. In addition to smaller types of algae, yellow tangs feed on macroalgae, such as seaweed. Yellow tangs will also eat some types of zooplankton.

Animal Foods: zooplankton

Plant Foods: algae; macroalgae

Primary Diet: herbivore (Algivore)

  • Wylie, C., V. Paul. 1988. Feeding preferences of the surgeonfish Zebrasoma flavescens in relation to chemical defenses of tropical algae. Marine Ecology, 45: 23-32.
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Associations

Ecosystem Roles

Yellow tangs, along with other algae feeders, are crucial parts of coral reef ecosystems. They feed on algae and seaweed that grow on the reefs, preventing them from overgrowing and killing corals. Yellow tangs are also a food source for larger fish and invertebrates.

Mutualist Species:

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Predation

Predators of Zebrasoma scopas include larger fish and predatory invertebrates such as crabs and octopi. Yellow tangs rely on camouflage and their scalpel-like fins to protect themselves. To humans, these fish appear bright yellow, but, to other fish, yellow tangs blend in very well with coral reef backgrounds. According to Marshall et al. (2003) wavelength differences between yellow and average reef color become negligible at the depths where yellow tangs are found. In addition to camouflage, Zebrasoma scopas use their scalpel-like fins for defense.

Known Predators:

Anti-predator Adaptations: cryptic

  • Marshall, N., K. Jennings, W. McFarland, E. Loew, G. Losey. 2003. Visual Biology of Hawaiian Coral Reef Fishes. BioOne, 3: 467-480.
  • Barry, K., C. Hawryshyn. 1999. Effects of incident light and background conditions on potential conspicuousness of Hawaiian coral reef fish. Journal of the Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom, 79: 495-508.
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Diseases and Parasites

Black spot Disease 4. Parasitic infestations (protozoa, worms, etc.)
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Life History and Behavior

Behavior

Communication and Perception

When mating, males change colors and exhibit a shimmering movement to attract females. In defense or aggression, yellow tangs extend their fins to full length, greatly increasing their size. They also expose their scalpel-like scales on their fins as a warning sign. They use these not only to defend themselves from predators, but also to scare away competitors for food or territory.

Communication Channels: visual ; tactile

Perception Channels: visual

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Life Cycle

Paired spawning (Ref. 240). Multiple spawner with reproductive activity occuring around the full moon (Ref. 86544).
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Development

Yellow tangs begin their lives as fertilized eggs floating in open water. After hatching, the clear, pelagic larvae develop in the plankton. They enter the acronurus larva stage where they develop an oval body, dorsal and ventral fins, and spines. After about ten weeks, they enter a planktonic stage. Here, waves carry them to a coral reef where they take refuge and continue to develop and grow.

Development - Life Cycle: metamorphosis

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Life Expectancy

Lifespan/Longevity

Not much is known about the lifespan of yellow tangs. However, some sources have found them living up to about 30 years on the reef and 10 years in captivity.

Range lifespan

Status: wild:
30 (high) years.

Range lifespan

Status: captivity:
10 (high) years.

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Yellow tang are a long-lived species (the oldest individual collected to date was a 41 year old female).

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Reproduction

Zebrasoma scopas can spawn in groups or in pairs. When in groups, females release eggs and males release sperm into open water where fertilization occurs. When in pairs, the male courts a female by changing colors and exhibiting a shimmering movement. The two fish then swim upward and simultaneously release their eggs or sperm into the water. Males may spawn with multiple females in one session, while females typically spawn only once a month.

Mating System: polygynandrous (promiscuous)

Yellow tangs reproduce externally. Their spawning peaks from March to September, but some fish spawn at all times throughout the year. An average female can release about 40,000 eggs.

Breeding interval: Females spawn about once a month

Breeding season: Breeding occurs year-round, but more often from March to September

Range number of offspring: 40,000 (high) .

Key Reproductive Features: iteroparous ; seasonal breeding ; year-round breeding ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); sexual ; fertilization (External ); broadcast (group) spawning; oviparous

There is no parental investment in yellow tangs beyond the fertilization of eggs.

Parental Investment: no parental involvement; pre-fertilization (Provisioning, Protecting: Female)

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There is a strong lunar pattern to reproduction with egg production peaking at the full moon. Females spawn most days, likely greater than 80% at least during the peak reproductive season.

Females can produce up to 25,000 eggs per day, with an average adult female producing about 1.1 million eggs per year.

Reproductive effort peaks in the late spring and summer, but there is evidence that yellow tang spawn at some level throughout the year.

Adult males and females can be identified by the external appearance of the urogential opening.

At 13 cm total length and around 5 years old females make a habitat shift from deeper coral rich habitats to shallow turf algal dominate reef flat and boulder habitats. They also start acting like adults in terms of movement patterns and spawign activity, and they start producing substantial amounts of eggs following a lunar cycle. Below this size and age egg production is minimal.

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Growth

Yellow tang are a very long lived species and display the typical surgeonfish "square growth curve", with high initial growth rates that rapidly decrease after the first few years. Yellow tang are sexually size-dimorphic with males being larger than females. Males grow substantially faster than females starting around age 2 and this trend continues until the asymptotic size is approached (age 7 to 10 years). Adult males are typically 17 to 20 cm total length, while adult females are typically 14 to 17 cm total length.

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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Barcode data: Zebrasoma flavescens

The following is a representative barcode sequence, the centroid of all available sequences for this species.


There are 8 barcode sequences available from BOLD and GenBank.  Below is a sequence of the barcode region Cytochrome oxidase subunit 1 (COI or COX1) from a member of the species.  See the BOLD taxonomy browser for more complete information about this specimen and other sequences.

ACACGTTGATTTTTCTCGACTAATCACAAAGACATCGGCACCCTTTATTTAGTATTTGGTGCTTGAGCCGGAATAGTAGGAACGGCTCTG---AGCCTGCTCATTCGAGCAGAACTTAGCCAGCCAGGCGCTCTTCTCGGAGAC---GACCAAATTTACAATGTAATCGTTACAGCACATGCATTCGTAATGATTTTCTTTATAGTTATACCAATTATGATTGGAGGGTTTGGAAACTGACTAATCCCACTGATA---ATCGGAGCCCCTGACATAGCATTCCCACGAATAAATAACATGAGCTTCTGACTCCTACCACCATCTTTCCTTCTCCTCCTTGCCTCCTCAGGTGTTGAAGCTGGGGCCGGTACAGGATGAACAGTTTATCCTCCGCTAGCGGGTAATTTAGCCCATGCCGGGGCATCCGTAGACTTA---ACTATCTTCTCCCTCCACCTCGCAGGGATTTCTTCAATTCTTGGAGCCATCAATTTCATTACAACCATCATTAACATGAAACCCCCTGCTATTTCACAGTACCAGACTCCTCTATTTGTATGGGCAGTCCTGATTACTGCTGTCTTGCTCCTTCTCTCTCTTCCGGTTCTTGCTGCC---GGAATTACAATGCTCCTTACAGACCGAAACTTAAACACCACCTTCTTCGACCCTGCAGGAGGAGGAGACCCAATTCTCTACCAACATCTATTCTGATTCTTTGGCCATCCAGAAGTATACATTCTTATCCTCCCAGGATTTGGTATAATTTCACATATCGTTGCTTATTATTCTGGTAAAAAA---GAACCTTTCGGTTATATAGGAATAGTATGAGCCATGATAGCAATCGGGCTACTAGGCTTTATTGTCTGAGCCCATCACATATTCACAGTCGGAATGGACGTCGACACACGTGCCTACTTTACATCCGCCACTATGATTATCGCCATCCCCACTGGTGTAAAAGTCTTTAGCTGACTG---GCAACC
-- end --

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Statistics of barcoding coverage: Zebrasoma flavescens

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLDS) Stats
Public Records: 8
Specimens with Barcodes: 9
Species With Barcodes: 1
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Conservation

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List Assessment


Red List Category
LC
Least Concern

Red List Criteria

Version
3.1

Year Assessed
2012

Assessor/s
McIlwain, J., Choat, J.H., Abesamis, R., Clements, K.D., Myers, R., Nanola, C., Rocha, L.A., Russell, B. & Stockwell, B.

Reviewer/s
Edgar, G. & Kulbicki, M.

Contributor/s

Justification
This species is widespread in the west and central Pacific. It achieves high abundances in Hawaii but is rare elsewhere. It is the number one collected aquarium fish in Hawaii (Walsh et al. 2004) and accounts for approximately 80% of the fish caught for the aquarium trade in West Hawaii in recent years (Claisse et al. 2009, Williams et al. 2009). There have been decreases in Yellow Tang density in areas open to fishing in West Hawaii. The decrease in open areas is attributable to the life history characteristics of this species as well as the increase in the number of aquarium collectors and collected animals. Several additional management actions have been proposed in response to the continuing decline of this species in areas open to collecting, these include restricting which species can be collected and the establishment of a limited entry program for the fishery (Walsh et al. 2010). In addition, Yellow Tang is protected in Fish Replenishment Areas (FRAs) and in a number of marine reserves in parts of its range and the trade is closely monitored in Hawaii. It is therefore listed as Least Concern. We recommend continued monitoring of the harvest and trade of this species. This is especially important because it has a complicated life history with adults settling in deeper, coral rich areas then migrate into shallow water after maturity. This characteristic has only been recently recorded, the 10 yr population monitoring set up in 1999 was targeting juvenile habitats and surveys in the shallow adult habitat has occurred only once in 2006. Studies have shown that the FRAs West Hawaii will become important in maintaining the breeding population with increased fishing pressure.
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Zebrasoma scopas is not a threatened or endangered species.

US Federal List: no special status

CITES: no special status

State of Michigan List: no special status

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Population

Population

Yellow Tang (Zebrasoma flavescens) is abundant only in Hawaii, rare elsewhere. It is the number one collected aquarium fish in Hawaii (Walsh et al. 2004). It accounts for approximately 80% of the fish caught for the aquarium trade in West Hawaii in recent years (Claisse et al. 2009, Williams et al. 2009). It made up 43.5% of the catch and 57.1% of the value of the overall aquarium catch in fiscal years 2004 through 2006. Reported catch from FY 2004-2006 was 366,317 individuals caught per year with a value of $896,048 per year (Friedlander et al. 2006).

Williams et al. (2009) state recent surveys of Hawaiian Islands by Hawaii Division of Aquatic Resources reveal no populations comparable in size to that of West Hawaii. Of 60 locations surveys across the Hawaiian archipelago, Yellow Tang was ranked 9 by index of relative dominance (Freq occurrence x percent biomass) (Friedlander and DeMartini 2002).

Reported Yellow Tang catch increased 30-fold between 1976 and 2007. The reported Yellow Tang catch has increased from ~10,000 fish per year in the 1970s to ~ 400,00 fish in 2006 (Friedlander et al. 2007, Williams et al. 2009). In 2007, reported catch declined to 291,013; although less than the catch in 2006, the catch in 2007 was still the third highest on record. The number of active collectors increased from 16 in 1999, to 37 in 2007 (Williams et al. 2009). Reported catches statewide of 3,386,860 individuals caught from FY 1976-2003 with a total value of $5, 567, 252.60 (Walsh et al. 2004).

The Yellow Tang is the most collected aquarium species in West Hawaii. There was a significant increase in overall density across Fish Replenishment Areas (FRAs) surveyed from 1999-2009. The FRAs were shown to be effective in terms of increases inside the FRAs relative to long term marine protected areas. The total number of individuals collected over the past five years was 1,621,053 with a total value of $5,035,883. There was a delayed increase in abundance in all areas surveyed following a strong recruitment in 2002. Even with low recruitment in 6 of the past 11 years adult populations increased by 57% in the FRAs since establishments (Walsh et al. 2010)

In West Hawaii, approximately 3,000 fish/km are harvested annually from areas open to fishing (Williams et al. 2009). A study by Tissot et al. (2004) conducted three years after the establishment of Fish Replenishment Areas (FRA) reported 78% higher Yellow Tang density in FRAs than in open areas. The monitoring stations for this study were located in mid-depth high-complexity reefs, which largely comprises of juveniles (Tissot et al. 2004, Williams et al. 2009). Adult densities in FRAs of West Hawaii are expected to increase as the total length of the fishery closure is short relative to the longevity of the fish (40 years) (Williams et al. 2009).

Prior to MPA establishment, densities were similar at sites open to fishing and those slated for closure: ~10-15 per 100 m2, whereas densities at Long-term Protected (LTP) sites were ~20-25 per 100 m2. By 2003, and in all subsequent years, mean yellow tang densities in Fish Replenishment Areas (FRA) sites had risen to values similar to those at LTP sites and were higher than at sites which remained open to fishing. Between 1999 and 2007, mean density increased by 72% at FRA sites, remained stable at LTP sites and declined by 45% at sites which were open to fishing (Williams et al. 2009). Adult Yellow Tang densities were highest within protected areas and in open areas adjacent to protected areas. Densities were lowest in open areas far from protected areas.

Williams et al. (2009) showed within-MPA effects, including density of targeted juveniles (5-10 cm) within FRAs as five times that of fished areas. Adult Yellow Tang densities were 48% higher in FRAs than in non-boundary open sites in 2006. Williams et al. (2009) showed within-MPA effects, including density of targeted juveniles (5-10 cm) within FRAs as five times that of fished areas. Adult yellow tang densities were 48% higher in FRAs than in non-boundary open sites in 2006. Densities of adults in open areas <1 km from the nearest MPA boundary, were significantly higher than in open areas far from MPA boundaries, indicating spillover effect (Williams et al. 2009).

The establishment of the FRAs have been attributed to higher catches with 2004 (5 yrs after their establishment) recording the highest catch for the entire 38 yr history of the fishery. The CPUE is highest in West Hawaii compared to other Hawaii islands, and is showing signs of increasing (Tissot et al. 2009). Recent genetic evidence involving parentage analysis suggest there is self-recruitment on the Big Island which might explain the possible increases in adult biomass since the FRAs were established (M. Christie unpub. PhD thesis).


Population Trend
Stable
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Threats

Major Threats
This is the primary coral reef fish species taken in Hawaii for the aquarium trade (Claisse et al. 2009). There have been decreases in Yellow Tang density in areas open to fishing in West Hawaii. The decrease in open areas is attributable to the life history characteristics of this species as well as the increase in the number of aquarium collectors and collected animals (Walsh et al. 2010).

Surgeonfishes show varying degrees of habitat preference and utilization of coral reef habitats, with some species spending the majority of their life stages on coral reef while others primarily utilize seagrass beds, mangroves, algal beds, and /or rocky reefs. The majority of surgeonfishes are exclusively found on coral reef habitat, and of these, approximately 80% are experiencing a greater than 30% loss of coral reef area and degradation of coral reef habitat quality across their distributions. However, more research is needed to understand the long-term effects of coral reef habitat loss and degradation on these species' populations. Widespread coral reef loss and declining habitat conditions are particularly worrying for species that recruit into areas with live coral cover, especially as studies have shown that protection of pristine habitats facilitate the persistence of adult populations in species that have spatially separated adult and juvenile habitats (Comeros-Raynal et al. 2012).
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Least Concern (LC)
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Management

Conservation Actions

Conservation Actions
In Hawaii, nine Fish Replenishment Areas (FRAs) were established in 1999. These areas prohibit marine aquarium organism collecting within approximately 30% of the Kona coast nearshore habitat (Kusumaatmadja et al. 2004). In addition, several additional management actions have been proposed in response to the continuing decline of Yellow Tang in areas open to collecting, these include restricting which species can be collected and the establishment of a limited entry program for the fishery (Walsh et al. 2010). In 2002, the Marine Aquarium Council initiated a three-year project designed to enhance coral reef conservation in the islands by facilitating MAC certification of qualifying aquarium industry operators and encouraging market incentives (MAC 2003).
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Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems

Benefits

Importance

aquarium: commercial
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Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

Yellow tangs, along with other surgeonfish (Acanthuridae), are not generally dangerous. When they are young, they possess venom glands. As they age into juveniles and adults, they lose these glands. If yellow tangs are provoked, they can inflict deep injuries with the sharp blades on their tails.

Negative Impacts: injures humans (bites or stings, venomous )

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Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Yellow tangs are important for tourism and the aquarium trade. Their bright yellow color is well recognized by scuba divers and other tourists on Hawaiian reefs. They are also a valuable resource in aquarium trade; they are the number one collected fish for export out of Hawaii. Their coloring, hardiness, and low cost all attribute to their popularity in marine aquariums, making them one of the ten most popular fish.

Positive Impacts: pet trade ; ecotourism

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Wikipedia

Yellow tang

The yellow tang (Zebrasoma flavescens) is a saltwater fish species of the family Acanthuridae. It is one of the most popular aquarium fish.

Appearance[edit]

Yellow tang are in the surgeonfish family. Adult fish can grow to 20 centimetres (7.9 in) in length, and 1–2 centimetres (0.39–0.79 in) in thickness. Adult males tend to be larger than females. Yellow tang are bright yellow in color. At night, the yellow coloring fades slightly and a prominent brownish patch develops in the middle with a horizontal white band. They rapidly resume their bright yellow color with daylight.

They have an arrow-like shape due to their dorsal and ventral fins being almost an extension to their bodies, and a long snout-like mouth used (as with other tangs) to eat algae and seaweeds that suffocate corals. They also have a sharp spine located near their tail. They have become a popular fish for marine aquarists of all skill levels, as the fish tends to be active, hardy, and nonaggressive when kept with dissimilar species.

Food[edit]

In the wild, yellow tang feed on benthic turf algae and other marine plant material. In captivity they are commonly fed meat/fish based aquarium food, but the long term health effects of this diet are questionable. However, most experts in the marine aquarium industry express little skepticism that such a well rounded and balanced diet including plant and animal material would be in any way detrimental to mostly herbivorous fishes like tangs, since they still need on occasion, complex amino acids and nutrients that only ocean animals can provide. In the wild, yellow tang provide cleaner services to marine turtles, by removing algal growth from their shells.

Distribution and habitats[edit]

Photo of two fish with rock in background
Yellow tangs in their natural habitat in Kona

It is commonly found in shallow reefs, from 2–46 metres (6.6–150.9 ft) deep, in the Pacific and Indian Oceans, west of Hawaii and east of Japan. Hawaii is the most common place for aquarium harvesting, where up to 70% of the yellow tangs for the aquarium industry are sourced from.

In the aquarium[edit]

Photo of fish
In a zoo aquarium

The yellow tang is very commonly kept as a saltwater aquarium fish. They can grow up to 8 inches (20 cm), in the wild, but are introduced to aquariums in the 2" to 4" range, some specimens as large as 6" are occasionally available. Life expectancy in the wild can exceed 30 years.[1] Captive lifespan is typically at least 2–5 years to as long as 20 years in a very large aquarium, with 5–10 years in the average aquarium being typical. "Some,not most, are however likely 'killed off' in the first month of care (from hobbyist mistakes, inappropriate tankmates, starvation...)".[2] Often ranked as a good beginner fish in the marine aquarium industry, the more prudent approach is for them to be kept by a marine aquarist who has at least 2 years or more of experience successfully keeping a marine/reef type biotope. They require an aquarium of at least a 55 gallon "show" tank-(48"Lx21"Hx13W"),at the absolute minimum where a single smaller specimen 2"-3" may be kept provided it's done by an experienced marine aquarist who can provide the fish with highly stable water chemistry parameters, very low to undetectable nitrate levels and a highly nutritious,balanced diet of seaweed and high protein frozen or live, meaty foods. A 75 gallon or larger is better for a single specimen, while 100 gallons or 60" in length or more aquarium is ideal. Like all tangs, they are quite susceptible to Cryptocaryon irritans (a parasite resembling Freshwater "Ich") and other common saltwater diseases. Marine "Ich" however, is usually quite avoidable in a marine tank as long as it is not introduced from incoming specimens or a rapid, sudden temperature drop in the tank from a heater that stops working is avoided or quickly corrected. There is also no evidence however, to suggest that tangs and other surgeon fishes in general are any more susceptible to marine ich than any other smooth-skinned, scale-less marine fishes. They are also susceptible to poisoning by high levels of nitrate, so care should be taken to keep measureable levels fairly low to less than 30 parts per million(PPM) in whatever type marine ecosystem the tang is housed in. They are semi-aggressive, though normally successfully cohabit with other semi-aggressive fish close to their own size. They are successfully kept as well in a multitude of privately owned aquariums that keep them peacefully and successfully with smaller fish such as chromis, damsels, and smaller clownfish. Tangs can thrive with others in pairs or in a group in large tanks (150+ gallons). If kept in groups of two or more specimens, at least a 72" length aquarium is strongly recommended. Other suitable tankmates include fish such as cardinalfish, large clownfish, lionfish, eels. They are reef-safe, and can be kept with any invertebrates in a reef aquarium. In essence, the yellow tang is a rewarding, peaceful marine aquarium inhabitant for a moderately experienced marine aquarist that can provide them with ample housing, a good diet, and optimal water conditions.


References[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Claisse, J., McTee, S., & Parrish, J. (2008). Effects of age, size, and density on natural survival for an important coral reef fishery species, yellow tang, Zebrasoma flavescens. Coral Reefs, 28, 95-105.
  2. ^ http://www.wetwebmedia.com/yeltangfaq4.htm Jan. 2014
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