Coral Reefs

, Volume 32, Issue 1, pp 85–90 | Cite as

Evidence for developmental thermal acclimation in the damselfish, Pomacentrus moluccensis

  • M. K. GrenchikEmail author
  • J. M. Donelson
  • P. L. Munday


Tropical species are predicted to have limited capacity for acclimation to global warming. This study investigated the potential for developmental thermal acclimation by the tropical damselfish Pomacentrus moluccensis to ocean temperatures predicted to occur over the next 50–100 years. Newly settled juveniles were reared for 4 months in four temperature treatments, consisting of the current-day summer average (28.5 °C) and up to 3 °C above the average (29.5, 30.5 and 31.5 °C). Resting metabolic rate (RMR) of fish reared at 29.5 and 31.5 °C was significantly higher than the control group reared at 28.5 °C. In contrast, RMR of fish reared at 30.5 °C was not significantly different from the control group, indicating these fish had acclimated to their rearing temperature. Furthermore, fish that developed in 30.5 and 31.5 °C exhibited an enhanced ability to deal with acute temperature increases. These findings illustrate that developmental acclimation may help coral reef fish cope with warming ocean temperatures.


Acclimation Coral reef fish Climate change Metabolic rate Oxygen consumption Temperature 



We thank staff at the JCU aquarium facility for technical assistance. Funding was provided by the GBRMPA Science for Management Awards (JMD) and the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies (PLM). This research was conducted under JCU ethics approval A1415.


  1. Angilletta MJ Jr (2009) Thermal adaptation: A theoretical and empirical synthesis. Oxford University Press, New YorkCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Angilletta MJ Jr, Wilson RS, Navas CA, James RS (2003) Tradeoffs and the evolution of thermal reaction norms. Trends Ecol Evol 18:234–240CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Bateson P, Barker D, Clutton-Brock T, Deb D, D’Undine B, Foley RA, Gluckman P, Godfrey K, Kirkwood T, Lahr MM, McNamara J, Metcalfe NB, Monaghan P, Spencer HG, Sultan SE (2004) Developmental plasticity and human health. Nature 430:419–421PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bret JR (1971) Energetic responses if salmon to temperature. A study in some thermal relations in the physiological and freshwater ecology of stockeye salmon (Oncorhynchs nerka). Am Zool 11:99–113Google Scholar
  5. Del Toro-Silvia FM, Miller JM, Taylor JC, Ellis TA (2008) Influence of oxygen and temperature on growth and metabolic performance of Paralicthys Iethostigma (Pleuronectiforme: Paralicthyidae). J Exp Mar Biol Ecol 360:109–116CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Donelson JM, Munday PL, McCormick MI, Pankhurst NW, Pankhurst PM (2010) Effects of elevated water temperature and food availability on the reproductive performance of a coral reef fish. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 401:233–245CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Donelson JM, Munday PL, McCormick MI, Nilsson GE (2011) Acclimation to predicted ocean warming through developmental plasticity in a tropical reef fish. Global Change Biol 17:1712–1719CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Donelson JM, Munday PL, McCormick MI, Pitcher CR (2012) Rapid transgenerational acclimation of a reef fish to climate change. Nature Climate Change 2:30–32CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Eliason EJ, Clark TD, Hague MJ, Hanson LM, Gallagher ZS, Jefferies KM, Gale MK, Patterson DA, Hinch SG, Farrell AP (2011) Differences in thermal tolerance among Sockeye Salmon populations. Science 332:109–112PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Farrell AP (2009) Environment, antecedents and climate change: lessons from the study of temperature physiology and river migration of salmonids. J Exp Biol 212:3771–3780PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Glynn PW (1991) Coral reef bleaching in the 1980s and possible connections with global warming. Trends Ecol Evol 6:175–179PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Hoegh-Guldberg O (1999) Climate change, coral bleaching and the future of the world’s coral reefs. Mar Freshw Res 50:839–866CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Hughes TP, Baird AH, Bellwood DR, Card M, Connolly SR, Folke C, Grosberg R, Hoegh-Guldberg O, Jackson JBC, Kleypas J, Lough JM, Marshall P, Nyström M, Palumbi SR, Pandolfi JM, Rosen B, Roughgarden J (2003) Climate change, human impacts, and the resilience of coral reefs. Science 301:929–933PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Iwama GK, Vijayan MM, Forsyth RB, Ackerman PA (1999) Heat shock proteins and physiological stress in fish. Am Zool 39:901–909Google Scholar
  15. Jobling M (1997) Temperature and growth: modulation of growth rate via temperature change. In: Wood CM, McDonald DG (eds) Global warming: implications for freshwater and marine fish. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp 225–253CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Meehl GA, Stocker TA, Collins WD, Friedlingstein P, Gaye AT, Gregory JM, Kitoh A, Knutti R, Murphy JM, Noda A, Raper SCB, Watterson IG, Weaver AJ, Zhao ZC (2007) Global climate projections. In: Solomon S, Quin D, Manning M, Chen Z, Marquis M, Averyt KB, Tignor M, Miller HL (eds) Climate change 2007: the physical science basis. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge and New York, pp 686–688Google Scholar
  17. Moorhead JA, Zeng C (2011) Breeding of the Forktail blenny Meiacanthus atrodorsalis: Broodstock management and larval rearing. Aquaculture 318:248–252CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Munday PL, Jones GP, Pratchett MS, Williams AJ (2008) Climate change and the future for coral reef fishes. Fish Fish 9:261–285CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Nilsson GE, Crawley N, Lunde IG, Munday PL (2009) Elevated temperature reduces the respiratory scope of coral reef fishes. Global Change Biol 15:1405–1412CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Nilsson GE, Ostlund-Nilsson S, Munday PL (2010) Effects of elevated temperature on coral reef fishes: Loss of hypoxia tolerance and inability to acclimate. Comp Biochem and Physiol 156:389–393CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. O’Meley C, Daintith M (1993) Aquaculture sourcebook. Turtle Press, TASGoogle Scholar
  22. Perry SF, Gilmour KM (2010) Oxygen uptake and transport in water breathers. In: Nilsson GE (ed) Respiratory physiology of vertebrates: Life without oxygen. Cambridge University Press, UK, pp 49–95CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Pörtner HO, Farrell AP (2008) Physiology and climate change. Science 322:690–692PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Pörtner HO, Knust R (2007) Climate change affects marine fishes through the oxygen limitation of thermal tolerance. Science 315:95–97PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Reylea RA (2002) Cost of phenotypic plasticity. Am Nat 159:272–282CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Somero GN, Hofmann GE (1997) Temperature thresholds for protein adaptation. In: Wood CM, McDonald DG (eds) Global warming: Implications for freshwater and marine fish. Cambridge University Press, UK, pp 1–24CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Stillman JH (2003) Acclimation capacity underlies susceptibility to climate change. Science 301:65PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Tewksbury JJ, Huey RB, Deutsch CA (2008) Putting the heat on tropical animals. Science 320:1296–1297PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. West-Eberhard MJ (2003) Developmental plasticity and evolution. Oxford University Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  30. Wilson DT, McCormick MI (1997) Spatial and temporal validation of settlement marks in the otoliths of tropical reef fish. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 153:259–271CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • M. K. Grenchik
    • 1
    Email author
  • J. M. Donelson
    • 1
  • P. L. Munday
    • 1
  1. 1.ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies and School of Marine and Tropical BiologyJames Cook UniversityTownsvilleAustralia

Personalised recommendations