PerspectiveEcology

When do fish succumb to heat?

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Science  03 Jul 2020:
Vol. 369, Issue 6499, pp. 35-36
DOI: 10.1126/science.abd1272

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Summary

Physiological responses to temperature can provide a window into climate change vulnerability of species. How warm will it get relative to a species' ability to tolerate heat? One complication in answering this question is that an organism's temperature tolerance can change throughout its life span, and organisms in early life stages may be more sensitive to cold and heat extremes than adults (the stage commonly measured) (1, 2). On page 65 of this issue, Dahlke et al. (3) report comparisons of the thermal tolerance limits of almost 700 freshwater and marine fish species at four life stages. Their findings confirm that embryos, and the reproductive adults who produce them, tolerate narrower temperature extremes than larvae and nonspawning adults, with thermal breadths (the difference between upper and lower thermal tolerance) that are narrower by an average of 20°C. As a result of this difference, projected climate vulnerabilities of fishes are greater than previously thought.

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