Marine Biology

, Volume 162, Issue 12, pp 2379–2389 | Cite as

Interannual variation in the larval development of a coral reef fish in response to temperature and associated environmental factors

  • Ian M. McLeodEmail author
  • Rhondda E. Jones
  • Geoffrey P. Jones
  • Miwa Takahashi
  • Mark I. McCormick
Original Paper


Climate change is predicted to increase ocean temperatures and influence weather patterns. Here, we examine the influence of temperature and other environmental variables on key early life traits of the coral reef damselfish, Pomacentrus moluccensis, based on ten cohorts of newly settled fish collected over 13 years from around Lizard Island (Great Barrier Reef, Australia). Pelagic larval duration (PLD), larval growth and size at settlement were estimated through otolith microstructure analysis. Multiple regression techniques were used to measure the strength of the associations between these traits and developmental temperature, rain, wind speed and solar radiation. Temperature accounted for 18.4, 26.7 and 25.0 % of the variability in PLD, growth rates and settlement size, respectively. PLDs generally declined and growth rates generally increased with increasing temperatures to ~28 °C, above which PLDs tended to increase and growth rates tended to decrease. Size at settlement did not differ between ~25 and ~28 °C, but tended to decrease with increasing temperature above ~28 °C. Together rain, wind speed and solar radiation explained 6.3, 26.3 and 33.7 % of the remaining variability in PLD, growth rates and size at settlement, respectively. Higher wind speeds were generally associated with longer PLDs. Increasing wind, high rainfall and increasing solar radiation were associated with slower growth rates and smaller sizes at settlement. Overall, results suggest that ~28 °C is likely to be a thermal optimum for larval development for this species and other environmental factors associated with climate change including rainfall, wind speed and solar radiation should be considered in predictions of effects on larval fish.


Wind Speed Solar Radiation Larval Development Great Barrier Reef Larval Fish 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



We thank Oona Lönnstedt, Shaun Smith and Tom Jones for collecting fish, Timothy Clark, Philip Munday, Agnès Le Port and Jodie Rummer for helpful discussions that contributed to this manuscript and Maya Srinivasan for providing the Pomacentrus moluccensis image used in Fig. 1. We also thank Lyle Vail and Anne Hogget from Lizard Island Research Station for providing logistical support and information about historical environmental conditions and the editor and two anonymous reviews who improved the manuscript. The Australian Research Council, AIMS@JCU and James Cook University supplied funding for this research.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ian M. McLeod
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
    • 4
    Email author
  • Rhondda E. Jones
    • 1
  • Geoffrey P. Jones
    • 1
    • 2
  • Miwa Takahashi
    • 1
    • 5
  • Mark I. McCormick
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.College of Marine and Environmental SciencesJames Cook UniversityTownsvilleAustralia
  2. 2.ARC Centre for Excellence for Coral Reef StudiesJames Cook UniversityTownsvilleAustralia
  3. 3.AIMS@JCU, Australian Institute of Marine ScienceTownsvilleAustralia
  4. 4.Centre for Tropical Water and Aquatic Ecosystem Research (TropWATER)James Cook UniversityTownsvilleAustralia
  5. 5.Australian Institute of Marine ScienceTownsvilleAustralia

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