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How warm is too warm for the life cycle of actinopterygian fishes?
Motani, R.; Wainwright, P.C. (2015). How warm is too warm for the life cycle of actinopterygian fishes? NPG Scientific Reports 5(11597 ): 10 pp.
In: Scientific Reports (Nature Publishing Group). Nature Publishing Group: London. ISSN 2045-2322; e-ISSN 2045-2322, more
Peer reviewed article  

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  • Motani, R.
  • Wainwright, P.C.

    We investigated the highest constant temperature at which actinopterygian fishes can complete their lifecycles, based on an oxygen supply model for cleavage-stage eggs. This stage is one of the most heat-sensitive periods during the lifecycle, likely reflecting the exhaustion of maternally supplied heat shock proteins without new production. The model suggests that average eggs would not develop normally under a constant temperature of about 36 degrees C or higher. This estimate matches published empirical values derived from laboratory and field observations. Spermatogenesis is more heat sensitive than embryogenesis in fishes, so the threshold may indeed be lower, at about 35 degrees C, unless actinopterygian fishes evolve heat tolerance during spermatogenesis as in birds. Our model also predicts an inverse relationship between egg size and temperature, and empirical data support this prediction. Therefore, the average egg size, and hence hatching size, is expected to shrink in a greenhouse world but a feeding function prohibits the survival of very small hatchlings, posing a limit to the shrinkage. It was once suggested that a marine animal community may be sustained under temperatures up to about 38 degrees C, and this value is being used, for example, in paleotemperature reconstruction. A revision of the value is overdue. (199/200)

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