Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Where big fish take shelter has big impact on their ability to cope with climate change

Date:
February 13, 2012
Source:
ARC Centre of Excellence in Coral Reef Studies
Summary:
The choices big fish make on where to shelter could have a major influence on their ability to cope with climate change, say scientists. In research aimed at understanding the process of fish population decline when coral reefs sustain major damage, scientists have found that big fish show a marked preference for sheltering under large, flat table corals.

Coral Trout.
Credit: Photo courtesy of James Kerry

When it comes to choosing a place to hang out, big reef fish like coral trout, snappers and sweetlips have strong architectural preferences.

The choices big fish make on where to shelter could have a major influence on their ability to cope with climate change, say scientists from the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies at James Cook University.

In research aimed at understanding the process of fish population decline when coral reefs sustain major damage, PhD student James Kerry and Professor David Bellwood have found that big fish show a marked preference for sheltering under large, flat table corals, as opposed to branching corals or massive corals (known as bommies).

In a study that covered 17 separate locations round Lizard Island in far North Queensland, the researchers videoed the behaviour of large reef fish, allowing them to identify the kind of habitat they most preferred and depended on.

"Like human beings, fish have strong preferences on where they like to hang out -- and it appears that they much prefer to shelter under overhanging tablecorals. This tells us quite a bit about how important these corals are to the overall structure of the reef and the large reef fish that live there," says James. "The reason for the fishes' preference is not yet clear -- but possibilities include hiding from predators such as sharks, shading themselves from ultraviolet sunlight, or lying in ambush for prey.

"The importance of this finding is that table corals are among the types most vulnerable to climate change," Prof. Bellwood explains. "In shallow waters and on the tops of reefs, they are often the main source of cover for these big fish.

"If they die back as a result of bleaching or disease, or are destroyed by storm surges, this would strip the reef of one of its main attractions, from a coral trout's viewpoint."

The researchers also proved that it isn't the coral, so much as the shelter that is important to big fish, by deploying artificial shelters made from plastic in the lagoon.

"We made one sort with no roof, one with a translucent roof and one with a roof painted black. Far and away the fish preferred to shelter under the black roof, which suggests they either want to hide or else to avoid direct sunlight," James says.

While the team is planning further experiments to clarify the reasons for the fishes' shelter preferences, their early findings may provide a useful insight to reef managers, about the importance of trying to maintain a range of structures and shelters as climate change bears down on the Great Barrier Reef, including the highly susceptible tabular corals.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by ARC Centre of Excellence in Coral Reef Studies. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. J. T. Kerry, D. R. Bellwood. The effect of coral morphology on shelter selection by coral reef fishes. Coral Reefs, 2011; DOI: 10.1007/s00338-011-0859-7

Cite This Page:

ARC Centre of Excellence in Coral Reef Studies. "Where big fish take shelter has big impact on their ability to cope with climate change." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 13 February 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/02/120213134144.htm>.
ARC Centre of Excellence in Coral Reef Studies. (2012, February 13). Where big fish take shelter has big impact on their ability to cope with climate change. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 24, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/02/120213134144.htm
ARC Centre of Excellence in Coral Reef Studies. "Where big fish take shelter has big impact on their ability to cope with climate change." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/02/120213134144.htm (accessed April 24, 2014).

Share This



More Plants & Animals News

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Monkeys Are Better At Math Than We Thought, Study Shows

Monkeys Are Better At Math Than We Thought, Study Shows

Newsy (Apr. 23, 2014) A Harvard University study suggests monkeys can use symbols to perform basic math calculations. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Leopard Bites Man in India

Raw: Leopard Bites Man in India

AP (Apr. 22, 2014) A leopard caused panic in the city of Chandrapur on Monday when it sprung from the roof of a house and charged at rescue workers. (April 22) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Iowa College Finds Beauty in Bulldogs

Iowa College Finds Beauty in Bulldogs

AP (Apr. 22, 2014) Drake University hosts 35th annual Beautiful Bulldog Contest. (April 21) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
805-Pound Shark Caught Off The Coast Of Florida

805-Pound Shark Caught Off The Coast Of Florida

Newsy (Apr. 22, 2014) One Florida fisherman caught a 805-pound shark off the coast of Florida earlier this month. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins