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Latitudinal variation in thermal tolerance thresholds of early life stages of corals


Woolsey, ES and Keith, SA and Byrne, M and Schmidt-Roach, S and Baird, AH, Latitudinal variation in thermal tolerance thresholds of early life stages of corals, Coral Reefs, 34, (2) pp. 471-478. ISSN 0722-4028 (2015) [Refereed Article]

Copyright Statement

Copyright Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

DOI: doi:10.1007/s00338-014-1253-z


Organisms living in habitats characterized by a marked seasonal temperature variation often have a greater thermal tolerance than those living in more stable habitats. To determine the extent to which this hypothesis applies to reef corals, we compared thermal tolerance of the early life stages of five scleractinian species from three locations spanning 17 of latitude along the east coast of Australia. Embryos were exposed to an 8C temperature range around the local ambient temperature at the time of spawning. Upper thermal thresholds, defined as the temperature treatment at which the proportion of abnormal embryos or median life span was significantly different to ambient controls, varied predictably among locations. At Lizard Island, the northern-most site with the least annual variation in temperature, the proportion of abnormal embryos increased and life span decreased 2C above ambient in the two species tested. At two southern sites, One Tree Island and Lord Howe Island, where annual temperature variation was greater, upper temperature thresholds were generally 4C or greater above ambient for both variables in the four species tested. The absolute upper thermal threshold temperature also varied among locations: 30C at Lizard Island; 28C at One Tree Island; 26C at Lord Howe Island. These results support previous work on adult corals demonstrating predictable differences in upper thermal thresholds with latitude. With projected ocean warming, these temperature thresholds will be exceeded in northern locations in the near future, adding to a growing body of evidence indicating that climate change is likely to be more detrimental to low latitude than high latitude corals.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Keywords:coral reefs, larval ecology, biogeography, dispersal
Research Division:Biological Sciences
Research Group:Zoology
Research Field:Animal physiological ecology
Objective Division:Environmental Management
Objective Group:Marine systems and management
Objective Field:Marine biodiversity
UTAS Author:Schmidt-Roach, S (Mr Sebastian Schmidt-Roach)
ID Code:105927
Year Published:2015
Web of Science® Times Cited:33
Deposited By:IMAS Research and Education Centre
Deposited On:2016-01-20
Last Modified:2016-07-28

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