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Thermal performance responses in free-ranging elasmobranchs depend on habitat use and body size

Lear, K.O., Whitney, N.M., Morgan, D.L., Brewster, L.R., Whitty, J.M., Poulakis, G.R., Scharer, R.M., Guttridge, T.L. and Gleiss, A.C. (2019) Thermal performance responses in free-ranging elasmobranchs depend on habitat use and body size. Oecologia, 191 (4). pp. 829-842.

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Temperature is one of the most influential drivers of physiological performance and behaviour in ectotherms, determining how these animals relate to their ecosystems and their ability to succeed in particular habitats. Here, we analysed the largest set of acceleration data compiled to date for elasmobranchs to examine the relationship between volitional activity and temperature in 252 individuals from 8 species. We calculated activation energies for the thermal performance response in each species and estimated optimum temperatures using an Arrhenius breakpoint analysis, subsequently fitting thermal performance curves to the activity data. Juveniles living in confined nursery habitats not only spent substantially more time above their optimum temperature and at the upper limits of their performance breadths compared to larger, less site-restricted animals, but also showed lower activation energies and broader performance curves. Species or life stages occupying confined habitats featured more generalist behavioural responses to temperature change, whereas wider ranging elasmobranchs were characterised by more specialist behavioural responses. The relationships between the estimated performance regimes and environmental temperature limits suggest that animals in confined habitats, including many juvenile elasmobranchs within nursery habitats, are likely to experience a reduction of performance under a warming climate, although their flatter thermal response will likely dampen this impact. The effect of warming on less site-restricted species is difficult to forecast since three of four species studied here did not reach their optimum temperature in the wild, although their specialist performance characteristics may indicate a more rapid decline should optimum temperatures be exceeded.

Item Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation(s): Environmental and Conservation Sciences
Centre for Sustainable Aquatic Ecosystems
Harry Butler Institute
Publisher: Springer Verlag
Copyright: © 2019 Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature
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