Surf smelt accelerate usage of endogenous energy reserves under climate change

Surf smelt (Hypomesus pretiosus) are ecologically critical forage fish in the North Pacific ecosystem. As obligate beach spawners, surf smelt embryos are exposed to wide-ranging marine and terrestrial environmental conditions. Despite this fact, very few studies have assessed surf smelt tolerance to climate stressors. The purpose of this study was to examine the interactive effects of climate co-stressors ocean warming and acidification on the energy demands of embryonic and larval surf smelt. Surf smelt embryos and larvae were collected from spawning beaches and placed into treatment basins under three temperature treatments (13°C, 15°C, and 18°C) and two pCO2 treatments (i.e. ocean acidification) of approximately 900 and 1900 μatm. Increased temperature significantly decreased yolk size in surf smelt embryos and larvae. Embryo yolk sacs in high temperature treatments were on average 7.3% smaller than embryo yolk sacs from ambient temperature water. Larval yolk and oil globules mirrored this trend. Larval yolk sacs in the high temperature treatment were 45.8% smaller and oil globules 31.9% smaller compared to larvae in ambient temperature. There was also a significant positive effect of acidification on embryo yolk size, indicating embryos used less maternally-provisioned energy under acidification scenarios. There was no significant effect of either temperature or acidification on embryo heartrates. These results indicate that near-future climate change scenarios may impact the energy demands of developing surf smelt, leading to potential effects on surf smelt fitness and contributing to variability in adult recruitment.

Russell M., Olson M. B. & Love B. A., 2022. Surf smelt accelerate usage of endogenous energy reserves under climate change. PLoS ONE 17(6): e0270491. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0270491. Article.

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