Coral Reefs

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Rapid larval growth is costly for post-metamorphic thermal performance in a Great Barrier Reef fish

  • Carmen Rose Burke da SilvaEmail author
  • Robbie Stuart Wilson
  • Cynthia Riginos


Most marine fish species disperse during a planktonic larval stage where individuals exhibit variation in pelagic duration, growth rate and settlement size. Extreme predation risk is predicted to select for rapid growth rates and decreased pelagic duration as a strategy for increasing survival to settlement. How larval traits affect post-metamorphic performance, however, has been a contentious topic over the past 50 yrs. Some studies suggest that larval traits have carry-over effects to later life stages, where larval traits can be positively or negatively correlated with post-metamorphic performance. For example, individuals with rapid larval growth rates may settle at larger sizes and have faster post-metamorphic locomotion than slow-growing individuals. Alternatively, trade-offs between life stages might exist, where rapid larval growth rate may be negatively correlated with post-metamorphic locomotion, potentially due to energetic resource allocation trade-offs. In addition, other studies suggest that larval traits are decoupled from later life stages to allow for a transition in morphology and habitat. We tested how Bathygobius cocosensis hatch size, larval growth rates, settlement size and pelagic duration correlated with post-metamorphic thermal performance of burst swimming speed, routine metabolic rate and critical thermal maximum. We found that larval growth rate was negatively correlated with juvenile routine metabolic rate and burst swimming speed across a range of test temperatures. That is, fast-growing larvae had slower burst swimming speeds and lower routine metabolic rates across temperature as juveniles compared to slower-growing larvae. We also found that hatch size and pelagic larval duration were not correlated with post-metamorphic performance. Thus, we provide evidence both for larval traits having carry-over effects on later life stages and also for larval traits being decoupled with thermal performance post-metamorphosis. This is the first study to show that rapid larval growth rate is costly for post-metamorphic thermal performance.


Growth rate Pelagic larval duration Thermal performance Development Otolith Larval traits 



We would like to thank the UQ Heron Island Research Station Student Scholarship and The Herman Slade Foundation (HSF 13/14 to Riginos) for funding. We also thank Julian Beaman, Iva Popovic, Joshua Thia and Gwendolyn David for help in the field and editing previous versions. Thank you Nuria Raventos from the Advanced Research Centre of Blanes for extracting larval trait data from fish otoliths. Collection of B. cocosensis was approved by the University of Queensland limited impact permit for Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (accreditation number: UQ006/2015). Animal ethics was approved by The University of Queensland Animal Ethics Unit (permit number: QS2015/MAN340).

Author’s contributions

da Silva, Riginos and Wilson conceived conceptual ideas and designed experimental methodology. da Silva collected and analysed the data. da Silva lead the writing of the manuscript, and Riginos and Wilson contributed critically to the drafts. All authors gave the final approval for publication.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

On behalf of all authors, the corresponding author states that there is no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Biological Sciences, Faculty of ScienceThe University of QueenslandSaint LuciaAustralia

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