Coral Reefs

, Volume 36, Issue 2, pp 609–621 | Cite as

Limited capacity for developmental thermal acclimation in three tropical wrasses

  • K. Motson
  • J. M. Donelson


For effective conservation and management of marine systems, it is essential that we understand the biological impacts of and capacity for acclimation to increased ocean temperatures. This study investigated for the first time the effects of developing in projected warmer ocean conditions in the tropical wrasse species: Halichoeres melanurus, Halichoeres miniatus and Thalassoma amblycephalum. New recruits were reared for 11 weeks in control (29 °C) and +2 °C (31 °C) temperature treatments, consistent with predicted increases in sea surface temperature by 2100. A broad range of key attributes and performance parameters was tested, including aerobic metabolism, swimming ability, burst escape performance and physical condition. Response latency of burst performance was the only performance parameter in which evidence of beneficial thermal developmental acclimation was found, observed only in H. melanurus. Generally, development in the +2 °C treatment came at a significant cost to all species, resulting in reduced growth and physical condition, as well as metabolic and swimming performance relative to controls. Development in +2 °C conditions exacerbated the effects of warming on aerobic metabolism and swimming ability, compared to short-term warming effects. Burst escape performance parameters were only mildly affected by development at +2 °C, with non-locomotor performance (response latency) showing greater thermal sensitivity than locomotor performance parameters. These results indicate that the effects of future climate change on tropical wrasses would be underestimated with short-term testing. This study highlights the importance of holistic, longer-term developmental experimental approaches, with warming found to yield significant, species-specific responses in all parameters tested.


Climate change Thermal sensitivity Plasticity Swimming Burst escape performance Metabolism 



We thank staff at the JCU aquarium facility for technical assistance, and volunteers D. Rowen, R. Streit and D. Warren for their help during the project. Thanks to P.L. Munday for guidance and feedback throughout, and to the two reviewers, whose insightful and thorough comments helped to improve the manuscript. Funding was provided by the Ian Potter Foundation (JMD) and University of Technology Sydney (JMD). This research was conducted under JCU ethics approval A1990.

Supplementary material

338_2017_1546_MOESM1_ESM.docx (72 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 71 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.College of Marine and Environmental ScienceJames Cook UniversityTownsvilleAustralia
  2. 2.ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef StudiesJames Cook UniversityTownsvilleAustralia
  3. 3.School of Life SciencesUniversity of Technology SydneySydneyAustralia

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