Fish Get Hot and Bothered Over Climate Change

damselfish with attitude photo

Image credit: Charles & Clint/Flickr

Outside of Finding Nemo we don't usually talk about the personalities of fish. Researchers, however, have noticed different personality traits in individual fish of the same species. In the case of coral reef fish, individuals tend to be either consistently timid or consistently bold.

Just how timid or bold these individuals are, however, is changing, in some cases radically, as the temperature of the oceans rises.Dr. Peter Biro, who led a study measuring temperature's affect on damselfish at the University of New South Wales in Australia, explained that:

The idea that fish have personalities may seem surprising at first, but we now know that personality is common in animal populations, and that this phenomenon may have far-reaching implications for understanding how animals respond to ecological and environmental challenges.

His study showed that individuals responded to temperature change in different ways. Some showed few observable changes, while others became "up to 30 times more active and aggressive" in warmer water.

This result has serious implications for the survival of reef species in a warmer ocean. If basic behaviors, like levels of activity and aggressiveness, change it will alter "food acquisition, encounter rates with predators and even the likelihood of an individual being captured by sampling or harvesting gear."

These findings suggest temperature change has a much greater influence on the behavior patterns of all animals than scientists previously thought. Dr. Biro said that this needs "to be taken into account for scientific studies of other cold-blooded animals, or ectotherms, such as reptiles and amphibians."

If other species respond in similar ways, it's likely that animals that develop an attitude when they get warm will rule a hotter planet.

Read more about fish:
World's Deepest Living Fish Caught On Camera
Ubercool "Mexican walking fish" Nearing Extinction
8 Sustainable Sources of Farmed Fish & Seafood

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