Thermal sensitivity does not determine acclimation capacity for a tropical reef fish

Authors

  • Jennifer M. Donelson,

    Corresponding author
    1. ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, and School of Marine and Tropical Biology, James Cook University, Townsville, Qld. 4811, Australia
    2. Climate Adaptation Flagship CSIRO, Hobart, Tas. 7001, Australia
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  • Philip L. Munday

    1. ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, and School of Marine and Tropical Biology, James Cook University, Townsville, Qld. 4811, Australia
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Correspondence author. E-mail: jennifer.donelson@my.jcu.edu.au

Summary

1. Short-term measures of metabolic responses to warmer environments are expected to indicate the sensitivity of species to regional warming. However, given time, species may be able to acclimate to increasing temperature. Thus, it is useful to determine if short-term responses provide a good predictor for long-term acclimation ability.

2. The tropical reef fish Acanthochromis polyacanthus was used to test whether the ability for developmental thermal acclimation of two populations was indicated by their short-term metabolic response to temperature.

3. While both populations exhibited similar short-term responses of resting metabolic rate (RMR) to temperature, fish from the higher-latitude population were able to fully acclimate RMR, while the lower-latitude population could only partially compensate RMR at the warmest temperature. These differences in acclimation ability are most likely due to genetic differences between the populations rather than differences in thermal regimes.

4. This research indicates that acclimation ability may vary greatly between populations and that understanding such variation will be critical for predicting the impacts of warming environmental temperatures. Moreover, the thermal metabolic reaction norm does not appear to be a good predictor of long-term acclimation ability.

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