MEPS 401:233-243 (2010)  -  doi:10.3354/meps08366

Effects of elevated water temperature and food availability on the reproductive performance of a coral reef fish

J. M. Donelson1,2,*, P. L. Munday1,2, M. I. McCormick1,2, N. W. Pankhurst3, P. M. Pankhurst3

1ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, James Cook University, Townsville, Queensland 4811, Australia
2School of Marine and Tropical Biology, James Cook University, Townsville, Queensland 4811, Australia
3Australian Rivers Institute, Griffith University, Gold Coast Campus, Queensland 4222, Australia

ABSTRACT: Climate change is predicted to increase ocean temperatures and alter plankton communities that are food for many marine fishes. To examine the effects of increased sea surface temperature and fluctuating food levels on reef-fish reproduction, breeding pairs of the coral reef damselfish Acanthochromis polyacanthus were maintained for a full summer breeding season in an orthogonal experiment comprising 3 temperature and 2 food levels. Water temperatures were the current-day average summer temperature for the collection location (28.5°C) and temperatures predicted to become close to the average for this region over the next 50 to 100 yr (30.0 and 31.5°C). Pairs were fed either a high or low quantity diet based on average and minimum feeding rates in the wild. Both water temperature and food supply affected reproductive output. Fewer pairs bred at elevated water temperatures and no pairs reproduced at either of the higher temperatures on the lower quantity diet. Furthermore, eggs produced were smaller at 30.0 and 31.5°C compared to those at 28.5°C. Histological analysis of the gonads and steroid hormone measurement did not reveal any apparent differences in patterns of oogenesis among treatments. However, spermatogenesis was reduced at high temperatures despite some increases in plasma androgen levels. Reduced breeding rate at warmer temperatures combined with reduced sperm production indicates the potential for significant declines in A. polyacanthus populations as the ocean warms. 


KEY WORDS: Climate change · Global warming · Food availability · Reproduction · Growth


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Cite this article as: Donelson JM, Munday PL, McCormick MI, Pankhurst NW, Pankhurst PM (2010) Effects of elevated water temperature and food availability on the reproductive performance of a coral reef fish. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 401:233-243

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