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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 420:1-13 (2010)  -  DOI:

Thermal niche of Atlantic cod Gadus morhua: limits, tolerance and optima

David A. Righton1,*, Ken Haste Andersen2, Francis Neat3, Vilhjalmur Thorsteinsson4, Petur Steingrund5, Henrik Svedäng6, Kathrine Michalsen7, Hans-Harald Hinrichsen8, Victoria Bendall1, Stefan Neuenfeldt2, Peter Wright3, Patrik Jonsson6, Geir Huse7, Jeroen van der Kooij1, Henrik Mosegaard2, Karin Hüssy2, Julian Metcalfe

1Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (CEFAS), Lowestoft NR33 0HT, UK
2National Institute of Aquatic Resources, Technical University of Denmark, Charlottenlund 2920, Denmark
3Marine Scotland:Science, Marine Laboratory, Aberdeen AB11 9DB, UK
4Marine Research Institute, 121 Reykjavik, Iceland
5Faroe Marine Research Institute, 110 Tórshavn, Faroe Islands
6Swedish Board of Fisheries, 401 26 Göteborg, Sweden
7Institute of Marine Research, 5817 Bergen, Norway
8Leibniz Institute of Marine Sciences, 24105 Kiel, Germany

ABSTRACT: Recent studies in the marine environment have suggested that the limited phenotypic plasticity of cold-adapted species such as Atlantic cod Gadus morhua L. will cause distributions to shift toward the poles in response to rising sea temperatures. Some cod stocks are predicted to collapse, but this remains speculative because almost no information is available on the thermal tolerance of cod in its natural environment. We used electronic tags to measure the thermal experience of 384 adult Atlantic cod from 8 different stocks in the northeast Atlantic. Over 100000 d of data were collected in total. The data demonstrate that cod is an adaptable and tolerant species capable of surviving and growing in a wide range of temperate marine climates. The total thermal niche ranged from –1.5 to 19°C; this range was narrower (1 to 8°C) during the spawning season. Cod in each of the stocks studied had a thermal niche of approximately 12°C, but latitudinal differences in water temperature meant that cod in the warmer, southern regions experienced 3 times the degree days (DD; ~4000 DD yr–1) than individuals from northern regions (~1200 DD yr–1). Growth rates increased with temperature, reaching a maximum in those cod with a mean thermal history of between 8 and 10°C. Our direct observations of habitat occupation suggest that adult cod will be able to tolerate warming seas, but that climate change will affect cod populations at earlier life-history stages as well as exerting effects on cod prey species.

KEY WORDS: Atlantic cod · Gadus morhua · NE Atlantic · Electronic tag · Climate · Behaviour

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Cite this article as: Righton DA, Andersen KH, Neat F, Thorsteinsson V and others (2010) Thermal niche of Atlantic cod Gadus morhua: limits, tolerance and optima. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 420:1-13.

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