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Variability in water temperature affects trait-mediated survival of a newly settled coral reef fish

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Abstract

As animals with complex life cycles metamorphose from one stage to the next, carry-over effects from earlier stages can affect future mortality. To examine the relationship between early life history traits and survival, seven monthly cohorts of newly-settled bluehead wrasse Thalassoma bifasciatum were collected immediately after settlement and over sequential 3-day periods. Otolith analysis was used to quantify mean larval and juvenile growth rates, pelagic larval duration (PLD), and settlement size and condition of different age classes to identify the traits most important for survival. Overall, survivors tended to have shorter PLDs, to settle at smaller sizes and higher condition levels, and to exhibit faster early juvenile growth. Water temperature contributed to among-cohort variability in traits as warmer water led to faster larval and juvenile growth and shorter PLDs. Trait-specific fitness functions demonstrated that temperature can influence fitness by changing the nature of selection on each trait. Estimates of selection intensity revealed that settlement condition contributed the most to variation in fitness across cohorts, followed by juvenile growth. Frequent loss of low settlement condition individuals and occasional loss of the very highest condition fish suggest that particularly high settlement condition during the warmest temperatures may be detrimental. Not only does the quality of settlers vary over time, but selective loss of individuals with particular phenotypic traits is not pervasive and can vary with environmental conditions such as temperature.

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Acknowledgments

This project was supported by NSF Grant No. OCE-9986359 to S.S. We thank J. Fortuna, M. Paddack, K. Denit, M. Sullivan, C. Paris, E. D’Alessandro, D. Richardson, C. Cooper, A. Mass, and R. Fortuna for help with the fish censuses and collections, T. Rankin and L. Matragrano helped dissect fishes from the cohorts, and J. Fortuna and D. Pinkard helped read otoliths. We are grateful to D. Swain and D. Schluter for invaluable statistical advice as well as to M. Valle, L. Brooks, and S. Ramos for early statistics discussions. Fish were collected under permits #00S-524 and 02R-524 from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, permits #2001–004, 2002–025A from the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, and UM Animal Care and Use Permit #01-056. Collections were made from vessels provided by the Institute of Marine Science and through Maytag Chair Endowment funds and the EPA-funded National Caribbean Coral Reef Research Center. Water temperature data were provided by T. Lee at the Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science and S. Miller at the National Undersea Research Center. This manuscript benefited from the comments of R.K. Cowen and two anonymous reviewers.

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Correspondence to Kirsten Grorud-Colvert.

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Communicated by Jeff Shima.

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Grorud-Colvert, K., Sponaugle, S. Variability in water temperature affects trait-mediated survival of a newly settled coral reef fish. Oecologia 165, 675–686 (2011). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00442-010-1748-4

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s00442-010-1748-4

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