Sunday, Dec 17 2017 | Updated at 08:56 AM EST

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Kelp forests fall prey to ravenous rabbitfish

A warming climate is making seaweed-eating fish hungrier – and they’re munching through kelp forests off the coast of New South Wales at up to 300 bites per hour, a new study finds. Adriana Vergés and colleagues at the UNSW and the Sydney Institute of Marine Science recorded an underwater video spanning a 10-year period until 2012 during which time the water warmed by 0.6°C. The kelp forests, which provide habitat for hundreds of species, disappeared and fish communities became increasingly dominated by tropical herbivores - especially the rabbitfish (Siganus fuscescens) and drummer fish (Kyphosus bigibbus). Dr Vergés said the rabbitfish and drummer fish "were the most voracious, eating fronds within hours at an average rate of 300 bites per hour". The study is published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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