From cooperation to combat: adverse effect of thermal stress in a symbiotic coral-crustacean community

Stella, J.S, Munday, P.L., Walker, S.P.W., Pratchett, M.S., and Jones, G.P. (2014) From cooperation to combat: adverse effect of thermal stress in a symbiotic coral-crustacean community. Oecologia, 174 (4). pp. 1187-1195.

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Although mutualisms are ubiquitous in nature, our understanding of the potential impacts of climate change on these important ecological interactions is deficient. Here, we report on a thermal stress-related shift from cooperation to antagonism between members of a mutualistic coral-dwelling community. Increased mortality of coral-defending crustacean symbionts Trapezia cymodoce (coral crab) and Alpheus lottini (snapping shrimp) was observed in response to experimentally elevated temperatures and reduced coral-host (Pocillopora damicornis) condition. However, strong differential numerical effects occurred among crustaceans as a function of species and sex, with shrimp (75 %), and female crabs (55 %), exhibiting the fastest and greatest declines in numbers. These declines were due to forceful eviction from the coral-host by male crabs. Furthermore, surviving female crabs were impacted by a dramatic decline (85 %) in egg production, which could have deleterious consequences for population sustainability. Our results suggest that elevated temperature switches the fundamental nature of this interaction from cooperation to competition, leading to asymmetrical effects on species and/or sexes. Our study illustrates the importance of evaluating not only individual responses to climate change, but also potentially fragile interactions within and among susceptible species.

Item ID: 32952
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1432-1939
Keywords: global climate change, mutualism, cooperation, coral bleaching, community-level effects
Funders: ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, James Cook University (JCU)
Date Deposited: 30 Apr 2014 09:57
FoR Codes: 05 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES > 0501 Ecological Applications > 050101 Ecological Impacts of Climate Change @ 60%
06 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 0602 Ecology > 060205 Marine and Estuarine Ecology (incl Marine Ichthyology) @ 40%
SEO Codes: 97 EXPANDING KNOWLEDGE > 970106 Expanding Knowledge in the Biological Sciences @ 40%
96 ENVIRONMENT > 9603 Climate and Climate Change > 960399 Climate and Climate Change not elsewhere classified @ 60%
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