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How a Coral Reef Fish Might Adapt to Future Global Warming

Paper Reviewed
Munday, P.L., Donelson, J.M. and Domingos, J.A. 2017. Potential for adaptation to climate change in a coral reef fish. Global Change Biology 23: 307-317.

In this intriguing study, Munday et al. (2017) reared offspring of wild-caught breeding pairs of the coral reef damselfish, Acanthochromis polyacanthus, for two generations at current-day and two elevated temperature treatments (+1.5 and +3.0°C)," consistent with current climate change predictions, while "length, weight, body condition and metabolic traits (resting and maximum metabolic rate and net aerobic scope) were measured at four stages of juvenile development."

As for what they learned from this endeavor, the three Australian researchers report that "significant genotype x environment interactions indicated potential for adaptation of maximum metabolic rate and net aerobic scope at higher temperatures," noting that "net aerobic scope was negatively correlated with weight," and indicating that "any adaptation of metabolic traits at higher temperatures could be accompanied by a reduction in body size."

Last of all, Munday et al. write that their results suggest there is "a high potential for adaptation of aerobic scope to high temperatures, which could enable reef fish populations to maintain their performance as ocean temperatures rise." Indeed, they also report that "recent studies indicate that plasticity may be especially important in enabling populations of marine species to adjust to climate change," citing Salinas et al. (2013), Munday (2014), Shama et al. (2014) and Thor and Dupont (2015)," while also noting that "this type of adaptive plasticity may buffer populations against the immediate effects of environmental change and give genetic adaptation time to catch up," further citing the study of Chevin and Lande (2010).

Chevin, L.M. and Lande, R. 2010. When do adaptive plasticity and genetic evolution prevent extinction of a density-regulated population? Evolution 64: 1143-1150.

Munday, P.L 2014. Transgenerational acclimation of fishes to climate change and ocean acidification. F1000 Prime Reports 6: 99. doi: 10.12703/P6-99.

Shama, L.N.S., Strobel, A., Mark, F.C. and Wegner, K.M. 2014. Transgenerational plasticity in marine sticklebacks: maternal effects mediate impacts of a warming ocean. Functional Ecology 28: 1482-1493.

Thor, P. and Dupont, S. 2015. Transgenerational effects alleviate severe fecundity loss during ocean acidification in a ubiquitous planktonic copepod. Global Change Biology 21: 2261-2271.

Posted 5 July 2017