The water flow rate of a fish's 'home' affects the survival of their offspring

 According to new research, the water flow where adult fish life can affect the body shape and survival of their offspring.

Heteractis Magnifica, French Polynesia, Amphiprion chrysopterus Rick Stuart-Smith / Reef Life Survey/Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0

The study, led by an international collaboration between CRIOBE (French Polynesia) and the University of Glasgow and published today in Functional Ecology, discovered that the survival of fish born from parents living in high water flow was half that of fish born from parents living in low water flow.

The orange-fin anemonefish Amphiprion chrysopterus was studied in a wild population on Moorea, French Polynesia. The researchers discovered that offspring born from fish living in high water flow had distinct fin shapes when they left to find their own "home," but grew at a slower rate once they had chosen an environment to live in.

Animals live in environments that vary in many ways, and the environments of parents and their offspring are frequently not the same. Most fish have two stages in their life cycle in the marine realm: an early stage as offspring, where young fish can disperse long distances in open water before selecting a suitable environment in which to develop and grow, and a less mobile adult stage.

Before becoming adults, offspring may experience conditions that differ from those of their parents. This new study helps to explain which traits are inherited from their parents and which are caused by environmental factors such as water flow, by distinguishing the effect of water flow experienced by parents from water flow experienced during development.

Daphne Cortese, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Glasgow who earned her Ph.D. at CRIOBE (PSL University Paris, Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes, EPHE), stated, "Water flow on coral reefs varies between sites and over time. Fish may exhibit differences in the shape, size, and dimensions of their fins and bodies, as well as in their swimming ability and metabolism, to cope with these varying water flows."

"However, until now, we've not known to what extent these trait differences are caused by their parents and the environment in which they live; via genes or differences passed down from their parents; or if the water flow in which offspring develop determines their traits."

"In this study, we've seen that the water flow environments of both the parents and offspring impact traits like fin shape, but the water flow of the parent's environment is the main determinant of offspring survival," said Suzanne C. Mills, associate Professor at PSL University Paris and based at CRIOBE, French Polynesia and co-author on the study.

"Overall, these findings suggest consequences of living in different environments, with likely compromises between parental and offspring traits and survival in wild populations," concluded Ricardo Beldade, CNRS at CRIOBE, France, and current professor at the Universidad Pontificia de Chile.

Adaptive effects of parental and developmental environments on offspring survival, growth, and phenotype. DOI: 10.1111/1365-2435.14202 Functional Ecology

Journal information: Functional Ecology


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