Coral reef fish and warming water: move or adapt?

Written by on October 14, 2016 in Fish, Marine Life

New research shows that in order to deal with warming ocean temperatures, some reef fish are relocating to cooler waters.

Blue-green damselfish. Photo credit Jodie Rummer.

Blue-green damselfish. Photo credit Jodie Rummer.

“When fish have to deal with increased temperature, there are physical consequences. They need more energy to cope, and they may not be able to handle stress or reproduce or even grow,” marine scientist Jacob Johansen of The University of Texas at Austin explained in a news release.

Over a 27-week period, researchers subjected damselfish (Chromis viridis), a common reef fish, to temperatures about 2-4 degrees Celsius above their normal summer temperatures. The fish that were acclimated to the highest temperatures lost 30% of their body weight and some of them died.

“But we found that, when given the slightest chance, fish can seek out temperatures that they’ve evolved to be in over thousands of years, to mitigate the impact of increasing temperatures and not sacrifice critical physiological processes,” said lead author Adam Habary of the University of Copenhagen.

“Our study provides a mechanistic explanation for why fish may move, and a way of testing it,” Johansen said.

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Copyright © 2016 by Marine Science Today, a publication of Marine Science Today LLC.

About the Author

About the Author: Emily Tripp is the Publisher and Editor of She holds marine science and biology degrees from the University of Miami's Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science and a Master of Advanced Studies degree in Marine Biodiversity and Conservation from Scripps Institution of Oceanography. When she's not writing about marine science, she's probably running around outside or playing with her dog. .


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  1. Herve BRE says:

    But how can they leave and cross over blue seas to reach colder water ?

  2. Video online says:

    The fish that were acclimated to the highest temperatures lost 30% of their body weight and some of them died.

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