Ocean warming, a rapid distributional shift, and the hybridization of a coastal fish species


  • [The copyright line for this article was changed on 21 November 2015, after first online publication.]


Despite increasing awareness of large-scale climate-driven distribution shifts in the marine environment, no study has linked rapid ocean warming to a shift in distribution and consequent hybridization of a marine fish species. This study describes rapid warming (0.8 °C per decade) in the coastal waters of the Angola-Benguela Frontal Zone over the last three decades and a concomitant shift by a temperature sensitive coastal fish species (Argyrosomus coronus) southward from Angola into Namibia. In this context, rapid shifts in distribution across Economic Exclusive Zones will complicate the management of fishes, particularly when there is a lack of congruence in the fisheries policy between nations. Evidence for recent hybridization between A. coronus and a congener, A. inodorus, indicate that the rapid shift in distribution of A. coronus has placed adults of the two species in contact during their spawning events. Ocean warming may therefore revert established species isolation mechanisms and alter the evolutionary history of fishes. While the consequences of the hybridization on the production of the resource remain unclear, this will most likely introduce additional layers of complexity to their management.