Phenotypic and Molecular Consequences of Stepwise Temperature Increase Across Generations in a Coral Reef Fish

by Bernal MA, Donelson JM, Veilleux HD, Ryu T, Munday PL, Ravasi T
Year: 2018 DOI: 10.1111/mec.14884

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Mol Ecol. 2018 Sep 29. doi: 10.1111/mec.1488


Global warming will have far-reaching consequences for marine species over coming decades, yet the magnitude of these effects may depend on the rate of warming across generations. Recent experiments show coral reef fishes can compensate the metabolic challenges of elevated temperature when warm conditions are maintained across generations. However, the effects of a gradual temperature increase across generations remain unknown. In the present study, we analysed metabolic and molecular traits in the damselfish Acanthochromis polyacanthus that were exposed to +1.5°C in the first generation and +3.0°C in the second (Step +3.0°C). This treatment of stepwise warming was compared to fish reared at current-day temperatures (Control), second-generation fish of control parents reared at +3.0°C (Developmental +3.0°C) and fish exposed to elevated temperatures for two generations (Transgenerational +1.5°C and Transgenerational +3.0°C). Hepatosomatic index, oxygen consumption and liver gene expression were compared in second-generation fish of the multiple treatments. Hepatosomatic index increased in fish that developed at +3.0°C, regardless of the parental temperature. Routine oxygen consumption of Step +3.0°C fish was significantly higher than Control; however, their aerobic scope recovered to the same level as Control fish. Step +3.0°C fish exhibited significant upregulation of genes related to mitochondrial activity and energy production, which could be associated with their increased metabolic rates. These results indicate that restoration of aerobic scope is possible when fish experience gradual thermal increase across multiple generations, but the metabolic and molecular responses are different from fish reared at the same elevated thermal conditions in successive generations.


acclimation aerobic scope climate change gene expression hepatosomatic index transgenerational plasticity