Climate change and the performance of larval coral reef fishes: the interaction between temperature and food availability

McLeod, Ian M., Rummer, Jodie L., Clark, Timothy D., Jones, Geoffrey P., McCormick, Mark I., Wenger, Amelia S., and Munday, Philip L. (2013) Climate change and the performance of larval coral reef fishes: the interaction between temperature and food availability. Conservation Physiology, 1 (1). pp. 1-12.

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Climate-change models predict that tropical ocean temperatures will increase by 2–3°C this century and affect plankton communities that are food for marine fish larvae. Both temperature and food supply can influence development time, growth, and metabolism of marine fishes, particularly during larval stages. However, little is known of the relative importance and potential interacting effects of ocean warming and changes to food supply on the performance of larval fishes. We tested this for larvae of the coral reef anemonefish, Amphiprion percula, in an orthogonal experiment comprising three temperatures and three feeding schedules. Temperatures were chosen to represent present-day summer averages (29.2°C) and end-of-century climate change projections of +1.5°C (30.7°C) and +3°C (32.2°C). Feeding schedules were chosen to represent a reduction in access to food (fed daily, every 2 days, or every 3 days). Overall, larvae took longer to settle at higher temperatures and with less frequent feeding, and there was a significant interaction between these factors. Time to metamorphosis was fastest in the 30.7°C and high food availability treatment (10.5 ± 0.2 days) and slowest in the 32.2°C and low food availability treatment (15.6 ± 0.5 days; i.e. 50% faster). Fish from the lower feeding regimens had a lower body condition and decreased survivorship to metamorphosis. Routine oxygen consumption rates were highest for fish raised at 32.2°C and fed every third day (162 ± 107 mg O2  kg−1 h−1) and lowest for fish raised at 29.2°C and fed daily (122 ± 101 mg O2 kg−1 h−1; i.e. 35% lower). The elevated routine oxygen consumption rate, and therefore greater energy use at higher temperatures, may leave less energy available for growth and development, resulting in the longer time to metamorphosis. Overall, these results suggest that larval fishes will be severely impacted by climate-change scenarios that predict both elevated temperatures and reduced food supply.

Item ID: 32229
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 2051-1434
Keywords: connectivity, developmental rate, population viability, thermal reaction norm
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© The Author 2013. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of The Society for Experimental Biology. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Funders: James Cook University (JCU), Great Barrier Reef Marine Protection Agency, AIMS@JCU, Australian Research Council (ARC)
Projects and Grants: ARC Linkage Grant LP 100200561
Date Deposited: 30 Apr 2014 00:15
FoR Codes: 06 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 0602 Ecology > 060205 Marine and Estuarine Ecology (incl Marine Ichthyology) @ 100%
SEO Codes: 96 ENVIRONMENT > 9603 Climate and Climate Change > 960307 Effects of Climate Change and Variability on Australia (excl. Social Impacts) @ 100%
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