Aquatic ectotherms often attain smaller body sizes at higher temperatures. By analysing ~15,000 coastal-reef fish surveys across a 15oC spatial sea surface temperature (SST) gradient, we found that the mean length of fish length in communities decreases by ~5% for each 1oC temperature increase across space. This equated to a 50% decrease in mean length from 14 to 29oC mean annual SST. We found that trophic guild composition shifts from domination by herbivores and planktivores in the tropics, to invertivores and piscivores in cooler waters. By investigating the contribution of trophic composition to community-level mean length, we show ~25% of temperature-related changes could be attributed to trophic composition at the warmest sites, but <1% at colder temperatures. Our findings suggest that small changes in temperature will lead to large changes in fish community body sizes, driven both by community trophic composition in warm waters and mean sizes within trophic guilds.
Aquatic ectotherms often reach smaller body sizes at higher temperatures. By analysing ~15,000 coastal-reef fish surveys across a 15oC spatial sea surface temperature gradient, we show mean community-level fish length decreased by ~5% for each 1oC warming, equating to a decrease in mean community-level body-length by 50%, or mean weight by 90% from 14-29oC. We further show dominant trophic guild composition shifts from invertivores and piscivores, to herbivores and planktivores, as water temperature increases. By investigating the contribution of trophic-composition to overall community-mean-length, we show ~25% of temperature-related changes could be attributed to trophic-composition at the warmest sites, but close to zero at colder temperatures. Our findings suggest that small changes in temperature will lead to large changes in fish community body sizes, driven both by changes in community trophic composition in warm waters, and by changes to the average body sizes of fish within trophic guilds across all temperatures.
Fed aquaculture is one of the fastest growing and most valuable food production industries. The efficiency with which farmed fish convert feed into biomass influences both environmental impact and economic revenue. Salmonid species, such as king salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha), exhibit high levels of plasticity in vital rates such as feed intake and growth rates. Accurate estimations of individual variability in vital rates are important for production management. The use of mean trait values to evaluate feeding and growth performance can mask individual-level differences that potentially contribute to inefficiencies. Here, we apply an integral projection model (IPM) to investigate individual variation in growth performance of 1625 individually tagged king salmon fed one of three distinct rations and tracked over 276 days. To capture the observed sigmoidal growth, we compared a non-linear mixed-effects (logistic) model to a linear regression model used within the IPM framework. Ration significantly influenced several aspects of growth. Mean final body mass and mean growth rate increased with ration, however, variance in body mass and feed intake also increased significantly over time. Trends in body mass mean and variance were captured by both logistic and linear models, suggesting the linear model to be suitable for use in the IPM. Higher rations resulted in a decreasing proportion of individuals reaching the cohort’s mean size or larger by the end of the experiment. This suggests that, in our trial, feeding to satiation did not produce the desired effects of efficient and uniform growth in juvenile king salmon. While monitoring individuals through time is challenging in commercial aquaculture settings, recent technological advances combined with an IPM approach could provide new scope for tracking growth performance in experimental and farmed populations. The IPM framework also allows the exploration of other size-dependent processes affecting vital rate functions, such as competition and mortality.
Climate change and fisheries exploitation are dramatically changing the species composition, abundances, and size spectra of fish communities. We explore whether variation in abundance-size spectra, a widely studied ecosystem feature, is influenced by a critical parameter thought to govern the shape of size-structured ecosystems—the relationship between the sizes of predators and their prey (predator-prey mass ratios, or PPMRs). PPMR estimates are lacking for vast numbers of fish species, including at the broader trophic guild scale. Using measurements of 8,128 prey items in gut contents of 97 reef fish species, we established PPMRs for four major trophic guilds (piscivores, invertivores, planktivores and herbivores) using linear mixed effects models. To assess theoretical predictions that higher mean community-level PPMR leads to shallower size spectrum slopes, we compared observations of mean community-level PPMR with size spectrum slopes for coastal reef sites distributed around Australia. PPMRs of individual fishes were remarkably high (median ~71,000), with significant variation between different trophic guilds (~890 for piscivores; ~83,000 for planktivores), and ~8,700 for whole communities. Community-level PPMRs were positively related to size spectrum slopes, broadly consistent with theory, however, this pattern was also influenced by the latitudinal temperature gradient. Tropical reefs showed a stronger relationship between community-level PPMRs and community size spectrum slopes than temperate reefs. The extent that these patterns apply outside Australia, and consequences for community structure and dynamics, are key areas for future investigation.
Amongst the more widely accepted general hypotheses in ecology is that community relationships between abundance and body size follow a log-linear size spectrum, from the smallest consumers to the largest predators (i.e., “bacteria to whales”). Nevertheless, most studies only investigate small subsets of this spectrum, due to extreme size classes that deviate from these linear expectations. In this study, we fit size spectra to field data from 45 rocky and coral reef sites along a 28° latitudinal gradient, and spanning 11 orders of magnitude in body size, from 3 μg to 150 kg. We found that 97% of the variation in abundance along this ‘extended’ size gradient was described by a single linear function across all sites. Moreover, consistent ‘wobbles’ were also observed, with subtle peaks and troughs in abundance along the spectrum, that related strongly to sea temperature and local site conditions.
The frequency distribution of individual body sizes in animal communities (i.e. the size spectrum) provides powerful insights for understanding the energy flux through food webs. However, studies of size spectra in rocky and coral reef communities typically focus only on fishes or invertebrates due to taxonomic and data constraints, and consequently ignore energy pathways involving the full range of macroscopic consumer taxa. We analyse size spectra with co-located fish and mobile macroinvertebrate data from 3,391 reef sites worldwide, specifically focusing on how the addition of invertebrate data alters patterns. The inclusion of invertebrates steepens the size spectrum, more so in temperate regions, resulting in a consistent size spectrum slope across latitudes, and bringing slopes close to theoretical expectations based on energy flow through the system. These results highlight the importance of understanding contributions of both invertebrates and fishes to reef food webs worldwide.
1. Fishing is a strong selective force and is supposed to select for earlier maturation at smaller body size. However, the extent to which fishing-induced evolution is shaping ecosystems remains debated. This is in part because it is challenging to disentangle fishing from other selective forces (e.g. size-structured predation and cannibalism) in complex ecosystems undergoing rapid change. 2. Changes in maturation size from fishing and predation have previously been explored with multi-species physiologically structured models but assumed separation of ecological and evolutionary timescales. To assess the eco-evolutionary impact of fishing and predation at the same timescale, we developed a stochastic physiologically size-structured food web model, where new phenotypes are introduced randomly through time enabling dynamic simulation of species’ relative maturation sizes under different types of selection pressures. 3. Using the model, we carried out a fully factorial in silico experiment to assess how maturation size would change in the absence and presence of both fishing and predation (including cannibalism). We carried out ten replicate stochastic simulations exposed to all combinations of fishing and predation in a model community of nine interacting fish species ranging in their maximum sizes from 10g to 100kg. We visualised and statistically analysed the results using linear models. 4. The effects of fishing on maturation size depended on whether or not predation was enabled and differed substantially across species. Fishing consistently reduced the maturation sizes of two largest species whether or not predation was enabled and this decrease was seen even at low fishing intensities (F = 0.2yr−1 ). In contrast, the maturation sizes of the three smallest species evolved to become smaller through time but this happened regardless 2 of the levels of predation or fishing. For the four medium-size species, the effect of fishing was highly variable with more species showing significant and larger fishing effects in the presence of predation. 5. Ultimately our results suggest that the interactive effects of predation and fishing can have marked effects on species’ maturation sizes, but that, at least for the largest species, predation does not counterbalance the evolutionary effect of fishing. Our model also produced relative maturation sizes that are broadly consistent with empirical estimates for many fish species.