As the climate warms, some reef fish prove more adaptable than others

Embargoed until: Publicly released:

Australian and Japanese scientists say many fish species are moving to new environments as the climate changes and some are more adaptable to these new homes than others. They found tropical fish species that change the most to adapt to new environments are more successful than temperate species capable of fewer changes, which tend to have highly specific lifestyles and needs. So, reef fish species that are generalists and more adaptable are likely to cope best with climate change as its effects ramp up.

Journal/conference: Proceedings of the Royal Society B

Link to research (DOI): 10.1098/rspb.2023.2206

Organisation/s: The University of Adelaide, University of Technology Sydney (UTS), James Cook University

Funder: We thank Callum Hudson and Vittoria Cipriani for their stat- Q4
istical support. I.N. and D.J.B. were supported by an Australian
Research Council (ARC) Discovery Project (DP170101722); I.N., T.R.
and D.J.B. were also supported by ARC Discovery Project
(DP230101932); C.M. was supported by an ARC Future Fellowship
(FT200100870). T.R. was supported by the Okinawa Institute of
Science and Technology (OIST).

Media release

From: The Royal Society

Ecological generalism and physiology mediate fish biogeographic ranges under ocean warming

Summary: Climate change is causing species to relocate to new environments. Species often alter different ecological traits such as behaviour, diet and habitat choice to enhance their success in new environments. We assessed ecological traits and the physiology of local temperate fish species and tropical fish species expanding their range into new environments. We found that fish species that alter more traits are more successful in new environments than fish species alter fewer traits. Therefore, we suggest that fish species that alter a range of ecological traits might be more successful during the initial stages of climate change.

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