Developmental effects of heatwave conditions on the early life stages of a coral reef fish

Rachel K. Spinks, Philip L. Munday, Jennifer M. Donelson

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    21 Scopus citations


    Marine heatwaves, which are increasing in frequency, duration and intensity owing to climate change, are an imminent threat to marine ecosystems. On coral reefs, heatwave conditions often coincide with periods of peak recruitment of juvenile fishes and exposure to elevated temperature may affect their development. However, whether differences in the duration of high temperature exposure have effects on individual performance is unknown. We exposed juvenile spiny damselfish, Acanthochromis polyacanthus, to increasing lengths of time (3, 7, 30 and 108 days post-hatching) of elevated temperature (+2°C). After 108 days, we measured escape performance at present-day control and elevated temperatures, standard length, mass and critical thermal maximum. Using a Bayesian approach, we show that 30 days or more exposure to +2°C leads to improved escape performance, irrespective of performance temperature, possibly owing to developmental effects of high temperature on muscle development and/or anaerobic metabolism. Continued exposure to elevated temperature for 108 days caused a reduction in body size compared with the control, but not in fish exposed to high temperature for 30 days or less. By contrast, exposure to elevated temperatures for any length of time had no effect on critical thermal maximum, which, combined with previous work, suggests a short-term physiological constraint of ∼37°C in this species. Our study shows that extended exposure to increased temperature can affect the development of juvenile fishes, with potential immediate and future consequences for individual performance.
    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)jeb202713
    JournalThe Journal of Experimental Biology
    Issue number16
    StatePublished - Aug 23 2019

    Bibliographical note

    KAUST Repository Item: Exported on 2021-03-31
    Acknowledged KAUST grant number(s): CRG3 2278
    Acknowledgements: This work was supported by a King Abdullah University of Science and Technology Competitive Research Grant (CRG3 2278) and funding from the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies (CE140100020). R.K.S. was supported by CRG3 2278 and P.L.M. was supported by an Australian Research Council Future Fellowship (FT130100505).
    This publication acknowledges KAUST support, but has no KAUST affiliated authors.

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Insect Science
    • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
    • Molecular Biology
    • Animal Science and Zoology
    • Aquatic Science
    • Physiology


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