Range-extending coral reef fishes trade-off growth for maintenance of body condition in cooler waters.

Affiliation

Southern Seas Ecology Laboratories, School of Biological Sciences, and The Environment Institute, The University of Adelaide, Adelaide SA 5005, Australia. Electronic address: [Email]

Abstract

As ocean waters warm due to climate change, tropical species are shifting their ranges poleward to remain within their preferred thermal niches. As a result, novel communities are emerging in which tropical species interact with local temperate species, competing for similar resources, such as food and habitat. To understand how range-extending coral reef fish species perform along their leading edges when invading temperate ecosystems, we studied proxies of their fitness, including somatic growth (length increase), feeding rates, and body condition, along a 730-km latitudinal gradient situated in one of the global warming hotspots. We also studied co-occurring temperate species to assess how their fitness is affected along their trailing edges under ocean warming. We predicted that tropical fishes would experience reduced performance as they enter novel communities with suboptimal environmental conditions. Our study shows that although tropical fish maintain their body condition (based on three proxies) and stomach fullness across all invaded temperate latitudes, they exhibit decreased in situ growth rates, activity levels, and feeding rates in their novel temperate environment, likely a result of lower metabolic rates in cooler waters. We posit that tropical fishes face a growth-maintenance trade-off under the initial phases of ocean warming (i.e. at their leading edges), allowing them to maintain their body condition in cooler temperate waters but at the cost of slower growth. Temperate fish exhibited no distinct patterns in body condition and performance along the natural temperature gradient studied. However, in the face of future climate change, when metabolism is no longer stymied by low water temperatures, tropical range-extending species are likely to approach their native-range growth rates along their leading edges, ultimately leading to increased competitive interactions with local species in temperate ecosystems.

Keywords

Feeding performance,Growth,Ocean warming,Range shifts,Reef fishes,Trade-offs,

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