MEPS 384:231-239 (2009)  -  doi:10.3354/meps08057

Performance of tropical fish recruiting to temperate habitats: role of ambient temperature and implications of climate change

Will F. Figueira1,2,*, Peter Biro1, David J. Booth1, Vanessa C. Valenzuela1

1Department of Environmental Sciences, University of Technology, Sydney, PO Box 123, Broadway, New South Wales 2007, Australia
2Present address: Centre for Research on Ecological Impacts of Coastal Cities, School of Biological Sciences, Marine Ecology Laboratories, A11, University of Sydney, New South Wales 2006, Australia

ABSTRACT: The warming of coastal oceans due to climate change is increasing the overwinter survival of tropical fishes transported to temperate latitudes by ocean currents. However, the processes governing early post-arrival mortality are complex and can result in minimum threshold temperatures for overwinter survival, which are greater than those predicted based upon physiological temperature tolerances alone. This 3.5 mo laboratory study monitored the early performance of a tropical damselfish Abudefduf vaigiensis that occurs commonly during austral summer along the SE Australian coast, under nominal summer and winter water temperatures, and compares results with a co-occurring year-round resident of the same family, Parma microlepis. Survivorship, feeding rate, growth and burst swimming ability (as a measure of predator escape ability) were all reduced for the tropical species at winter water temperatures compared to those in summer, whereas the temperate species experienced no mortality and only feeding rate was reduced at colder temperatures. These results suggest that observed minimum threshold survival temperatures may be greater than predicted by physiology alone, due to lowered food intake combined with increased predation risk (a longer time at vulnerable sizes and reduced escape ability). Overwinter survival is a significant hurdle in pole-ward range expansions of tropical fishes, and a better understanding of its complex processes will allow for more accurate predictions of changes in biodiversity as coastal ocean temperatures continue to increase due to climate change.


KEY WORDS: Damselfishes · Parma microlepis · Abudefduf vaigiensis · Overwinter survival · Burst swimming · Tropical vagrants · Marine fishes


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Cite this article as: Figueira WF, Biro P, Booth DJ, Valenzuela VC (2009) Performance of tropical fish recruiting to temperate habitats: role of ambient temperature and implications of climate change. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 384:231-239

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