The effects of water temperature on the juvenile performance of two tropical damselfishes expatriating to temperate reefs

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Scientific Reports, 2019, 9 (1)
Issue Date:
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© 2019, The Author(s). Ocean warming associated with global climate change is already inducing geographic range shifts of marine species. Juvenile coral reef fishes transported into temperate latitudes (termed ‘vagrant’ fishes) can experience winter water temperatures below their normal thermal minimum. Such environmental extremes may increase energetic costs for such fishes, resulting in reduced performance, which may be the governing factor that limits the potential for poleward range expansion of such fishes. This study compared the juvenile physiological performance and behaviour of two congeneric tropical damselfishes which settle during austral summer months within temperate eastern Australia: Abudefduf vaigiensis have an extended southern range, and lower threshold survival temperature than the congeneric A. whitleyi. Physiological and behavioural performance parameters that may be affected by cooler temperature regimes at higher latitudes were measured in aquaria. Lower water temperature resulted in reduced growth rates, feeding rates, burst escape speed and metabolic rates of both species, with significantly reduced performance (up to six-fold reductions) for fishes reared at 18 °C relative to 22 °C and 26 °C. However, A. whitleyi exhibited lower growth rates than A. vaigiensis across all temperatures, and lower aerobic capacity at the lowest temperature (18 °C). This difference between species in growth and metabolic capacity suggests that the extended southern distribution and greater overwintering success of A. vaigiensis, in comparison to A. whitleyi is related to thermal performance parameters which are critical in maintaining individual health and survival. Our results support previous findings in the region that water temperature below 22 °C represents a critical physiological threshold for tropical Abudefduf species expatriating into temperate south-eastern Australia.
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