Coping with climate change: exploration of metabolic acclimation across generations in a tropical fish.

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The Ohio State University

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Human-induced climate change is altering the environment, presenting survival challenges to many organisms. In aquatic environments, rising water temperature is among the most prevalent manifestations of climate change stress. When faced with water warming, one way for populations to persist is for its individuals to acclimate to the new temperature. However, the potential for acclimation may be limited, especially in tropical species that likely evolved in a narrow range of environmental conditions. Herein, we seek to determine the capacity for cross-generational acclimation in Julidochromis ornatus, a tropical cichlid species endemic to, but common in, Lake Tanganyika (East Africa). A previous experiment showed that adult (F0 generation) J. ornatus individuals exposed to the anticipated Lake Tanganyika water temperature at year 2100 (29°C) experienced an increase in mass-specific metabolic rate, which never declined to baseline levels even after 6 mos of exposure and subsequent reductions in reproductive output and age-specific growth rate. By contrast, no change in mass-specific metabolic rate was observed in fish held at baseline (historically normal) temperature (i.e., 25°C). For our study, we quantified the mass-specific metabolic rates of the progeny of these F0 adults (i.e., F1generation individuals), which spent their entire lives in either 25˚C or 29˚C water. In so doing, we tested the hypothesis that the F1generation individuals would have a lower mass-specific metabolic rate at 29°C than F0-generation individuals, owing to maternal (epigenetic) effects. Herein, we present findings regarding the ability of the second (F1) generation individuals to alter their mass-specific metabolic rate and then discuss what these results might mean for population persistence in this and other tropical cichlid species that are experiencing climate-driven water warming.


The work of this thesis was turned into a poster that received a 2nd place award at the 2017 Denman Undergraduate Research Forum


Climate Change, Aquatic Biology, Metabolic rate, Respirometry