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Dr Jennifer Marie Donelson


I have always loved the ocean and been fascinated by coral reefs. This lead me to undertake a BSc at James Cook University majoring in Marine Biology. Once I completed my BSc I began an honours project investigating the importance of parental effects to offspring performance in a coral reef fish, under the supervision of Professor Philip Munday and Professor Mark McCormick.

After my honours I took a year break and during that time assisted Professor Philip Munday with research on the effects of ocean acidification to coral reef fish. In 2008 I began a PhD to investigate the ability of coral reef fish to acclimation to increases in ocean temperature predicted with climate change. Following my PhD completion in 2012 I headed to the United Arab Emirates on a Winston Churchill Fellowship to investigate the thermal physiology of reef fish living in some of the warmest oceans on Earth, the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman.

In 2013 I began a UTS Chancellor's Postdoctoral Research Fellow with Professor David Booth studying the thermal sensitivity and acclimation ability of marine fish throughout the East coast of Australia.

More information:


Fellowships and Scholarships
2013-2016 Chancellor’s Postdoctoral Research Fellowship, University of Technology Sydney (3 years full-time salary inc. $45K research support + $30K travel fellowship)
2012 Winston Churchill Fellowship: Dr. Dorothea Sanders and Irene Lee Fellowship to travel to the United Arab Emirates and investigate the thermal physiology of reef fish living in the Persian Gulf ($15,000 funding)
2008-2011 CSIRO Marine Climate Impact and Adaptation Flagship Student Fellowship (top-up scholarship $7,000 per annum, $4,000 research funding per annum and $6,000 international travel funding)

Awards, Prizes and Grants (selected)
2012 Virginia Chadwick Award for Excellence in Scientific Publishing ($1,000)
2011 Virginia Chadwick Award for Excellence in Scientific Publishing ($1,000)
2011 Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority: Science for Management Awards ($3,300)
2010 Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority: Science for Management Awards ($4,000)
2010 James Cook University: Graduate Research Scheme Funding ($3,000)
2010 National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility Early Career Travel Grant ($2,000)
2010 Australian Coral Reef Society Conference Travel Funds ($600)
2010 Australian Society of Fish Biology Travel Grant ($200)
2009 Australian Coral Reef Society: Student Award ($1,500)
2009 Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority: Science for Management Awards ($2,000)
2009 James Cook University: Graduate Research Scheme Funding ($2,900)
2009 Australian Coral Reef Society Conference Travel funds ($700)
2008 Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority: Science for Management Awards($4,000)

Fish acclimate across generations to increases in sea water temperature
Acclimation to increases in sea water temperature within a generation

Associate of the Faculty, School of Life Sciences
BSc, BSc (Honours), PhD

Research Interests

  • Impacts of climate change on marine fishes
  • The ability of marine fish to acclimate and adapt to climate change
  • Developmental plasticity
  • Parental effects
  • Thermal ecology and evolution

I have broad interests in the ecology and early life history of marine fishes, as well as the potential for animals to cope with future climate change. My research to date has focused on the ecological impacts of climate change to marine fishes and the potential for species to acclimate to the predicted environmental changes. To tackle these questions I use temperature controlled aquarium systems to maintain fish under elevated temperatures for years and generations to test the longer term impacts of warming ocean on marine fish. I utilize state of the art aquariums systems at both Sydney Institute of Marine Science and James Cook University to test the impacts of elevated sea water temperature.

My research concentrates on understanding the importance and prevalence of developmental plasticity, when fish experience warmer conditions in the first months of life, as well as the potential for acclimation across generations, when parents and grandparents are kept under elevated temperature conditions for their entire life. My continuing research will expand our knowledge of how marine fishes throughout Eastern Australia (temperate to tropical) may cope with climate change through both developmental and transgenerational acclimation.

Can supervise: Yes

Journal articles

Donelson, J.M., Wong, M., Booth, D.J. & Munday, P.L. 2016, 'Transgenerational plasticity of reproduction depends on rate of warming across generations', Evolutionary Applications.
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© 2016 John Wiley & Sons Ltd.Predicting the impacts of climate change to biological systems requires an understanding of the ability for species to acclimate to the projected environmental change through phenotypic plasticity. Determining the effects of higher temperatures on individual performance is made more complex by the potential for environmental conditions experienced in previous and current generations to independently affect phenotypic responses to high temperatures. We used a model coral reef fish (Acanthochromis polyacanthus) to investigate the influence of thermal conditions experienced by two generations on reproductive output and the quality of offspring produced by adults. We found that more gradual warming over two generations, +1.5°C in the first generation and then +3.0°C in the second generation, resulted in greater plasticity of reproductive attributes, compared to fish that experienced the same increase in one generation. Reproduction ceased at the projected future summer temperature (31.5°C) when fish experienced +3.0°C for two generations. Additionally, we found that transgenerational plasticity to +1.5°C induced full restoration of thermally affected reproductive and offspring attributes, which was not possible with developmental plasticity alone. Our results suggest that transgenerational effects differ depending on the absolute thermal change and in which life stage the thermal change is experienced.
Donelson, J.M. & Munday, P.L. 2015, 'Transgenerational plasticity mitigates the impact of global warming to offspring sex ratios.', Global change biology, vol. 21, no. 8, pp. 2954-2962.
Global warming poses a threat to organisms with temperature-dependent sex determination because it can affect operational sex ratios. Using a multigenerational experiment with a marine fish, we provide the first evidence that parents developing from early life at elevated temperatures can adjust their offspring gender through nongenetic and nonbehavioural means. However, this adjustment was not possible when parents reproduced, but did not develop, at elevated temperatures. Complete restoration of the offspring sex ratio occurred when parents developed at 1.5 °C above the present-day average temperature for one generation. However, only partial improvement in the sex ratio occurred at 3.0 °C above average conditions, even after two generations, suggesting a limitation to transgenerational plasticity when developmental temperature is substantially increased. This study highlights the potential for transgenerational plasticity to ameliorate some impacts of climate change and that development from early life may be essential for expression of transgenerational plasticity in some traits.
Donelson, J.M. 2015, 'Development in a warm future ocean may enhance performance in some species', Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology, vol. 472, pp. 119-125.
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&copy; 2015 Elsevier B.V. Understanding the capacity of organisms to cope with projected global warming through acclimation and adaptation is critical to predicting their likely future persistence. The vast majority of research on tropical species suggests they will be substantially negatively affected by future warming and have limited capacity to acclimate to changes. This study tested whether the spine cheek anemonefish, Premnas biaculeatus, has the capacity for developmental thermal acclimation of metabolic attributes and critical thermal maximum (CT<inf>max</inf>) to increasing sea water temperature. Juveniles of P. biaculeatus exhibited high capacity for developmental thermal acclimation of aerobic physiology. Fish reared at +1.5&deg;C and +3.0&deg;C above present-day mean temperatures possessed enhanced performance across all testing temperatures (28.5&deg;C to 31.5&deg;C), i.e. overcompensation. Specifically, this occurred through increases in maximum oxygen consumption (MO<inf>2Maximum</inf>) that resulted in elevations in both net and factorial aerobic scope. In addition, fish reared at +1.5&deg;C also exhibited a partial increase in critical thermal maximum (CT<inf>max</inf>) by 0.5&deg;C, however no increase was observed in fish reared at +3.0&deg;C. Fish reared at +3.0&deg;C were significantly longer, heavier and in better condition than +0.0&deg;C present-day fish, suggesting that alterations to aerobic physiology correspond to enhancement of growth and condition as would be predicted with the oxygen and capacity limited thermal tolerance hypothesis. These results indicate that the acclimation to future warming may produce overall enhanced performance in some species. It also suggests that the developmental acclimation ability varies substantially between species within the same family and a greater understanding of promoted or reduced acclimation capacity will be critically important to predicting the impacts of climate change on coral reef systems.
Veilleux, H.D., Ryu, T., Donelson, J.M., Van Herwerden, L., Seridi, L., Ghosheh, Y., Berumen, M.L., Leggat, W., Ravasi, T. & Munday, P.L. 2015, 'Molecular processes of transgenerational acclimation to a warming ocean', Nature Climate Change, vol. 5, no. 12, pp. 1074-1078.
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&copy; 2015 Macmillan Publishers Limited. All rights reserved. Some animals have the remarkable capacity to acclimate across generations to projected future climate change; however, the underlying molecular processes are unknown. We sequenced and assembled de novo transcriptomes of adult tropical reef fish exposed developmentally or transgenerationally to projected future ocean temperatures and correlated the resulting expression profiles with acclimated metabolic traits from the same fish. We identified 69 contigs representing 53 key genes involved in thermal acclimation of aerobic capacity. Metabolic genes were among the most upregulated transgenerationally, suggesting shifts in energy production for maintaining performance at elevated temperatures. Furthermore, immune- and stress-responsive genes were upregulated transgenerationally, indicating a new complement of genes allowing the second generation of fish to better cope with elevated temperatures. Other differentially expressed genes were involved with tissue development and transcriptional regulation. Overall, we found a similar suite of differentially expressed genes among developmental and transgenerational treatments. Heat-shock protein genes were surprisingly unresponsive, indicating that short-term heat-stress responses may not be a good indicator of long-term acclimation capacity. Our results are the first to reveal the molecular processes that may enable marine fishes to adjust to a future warmer environment over multiple generations.
Fox, R.J. & Donelson, J. 2014, 'Rabbitfish sentinels: first report of coordinated vigilance in conspecific marine fishes', Coral Reefs, vol. 33, no. 1, pp. 253-253.
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Donelson, J., Mccormick, M.I., Booth, D.J. & Munday, P.L. 2014, 'Reproductive Acclimation to Increased Water Temperature in a Tropical Reef Fish', PLoS One, vol. 9, no. 5, pp. 1-9.
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Understanding the capacity of organisms to cope with projected global warming through acclimation and adaptation is critical to predicting their likely future persistence. While recent research has shown that developmental acclimation of metabolic attributes to ocean warming is possible, our understanding of the plasticity of key fitness-associated traits, such as reproductive performance, is lacking. We show that while the reproductive ability of a tropical reef fish is highly sensitive to increases in water temperature, reproductive capacity at +1.5&deg;C above present-day was improved to match fish maintained at present-day temperatures when fish complete their development at the higher temperature. However, reproductive acclimation was not observed in fish reared at +3.0&deg;C warmer than present-day, suggesting limitations to the acclimation possible within one generation. Surprisingly, the improvements seen in reproduction were not predicted by the oxygen- and capacity-limited thermal tolerance hypothesis. Specifically, pairs reared at +1.5&deg;C, which showed the greatest capacity for reproductive acclimation, exhibited no acclimation of metabolic attributes. Conversely, pairs reared at +3.0&deg;C, which exhibited acclimation in resting metabolic rate, demonstrated little capacity for reproductive acclimation. Our study suggests that understanding the acclimation capacity of reproductive performance will be critically important to predicting the impacts of climate change on biological systems.
Munday, P.L., Pratchett, M.S., Dixson, D.L., Donelson, J.M., Endo, G.G.K., Reynolds, A.D. & Knuckey, R. 2013, 'Elevated CO2 affects the behavior of an ecologically and economically important coral reef fish', Marine Biology, vol. 160, no. 8, pp. 2137-2144.
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We tested the effect of near-future CO2 levels (490, 570, 700, and 960 atm CO2) on the olfactory responses and activity levels of juvenile coral trout, Plectropomus leopardus, a piscivorous reef fish that is also one of the most important fisheries species on the Great Barrier Reef, Australia. Juvenile coral trout reared for 4 weeks at 570 atm CO2 exhibited similar sensory responses and behaviors to juveniles reared at 490 atm CO2 (control). In contrast, juveniles reared at 700 and 960 atm CO2 exhibited dramatically altered sensory function and behaviors. At these higher CO2 concentrations, juveniles became attracted to the odor of potential predators, as has been observed in other reef fishes. They were more active, spent less time in shelter, ventured further from shelter, and were bolder than fish reared at 490 or 570 atm CO2. These results demonstrate that behavioral impairment of coral trout is unlikely if pCO2 remains below 600 atm; however, at higher levels, there are significant impacts on juvenile performance that are likely to affect survival and energy budgets, with consequences for predator-prey interactions and commercial fisheries. &copy; 2012 Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg.
Grenchik, M.K., Donelson, J.M. & Munday, P.L. 2013, 'Evidence for developmental thermal acclimation in the damselfish, Pomacentrus moluccensis', Coral Reefs, vol. 32, no. 1, pp. 85-90.
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Tropical species are predicted to have limited capacity for acclimation to global warming. This study investigated the potential for developmental thermal acclimation by the tropical damselfish Pomacentrus moluccensis to ocean temperatures predicted to occur over the next 50-100 years. Newly settled juveniles were reared for 4 months in four temperature treatments, consisting of the current-day summer average (28. 5 &deg;C) and up to 3 &deg;C above the average (29. 5, 30. 5 and 31. 5 &deg;C). Resting metabolic rate (RMR) of fish reared at 29. 5 and 31. 5 &deg;C was significantly higher than the control group reared at 28. 5 &deg;C. In contrast, RMR of fish reared at 30. 5 &deg;C was not significantly different from the control group, indicating these fish had acclimated to their rearing temperature. Furthermore, fish that developed in 30. 5 and 31. 5 &deg;C exhibited an enhanced ability to deal with acute temperature increases. These findings illustrate that developmental acclimation may help coral reef fish cope with warming ocean temperatures. &copy; 2012 Springer-Verlag.
Miller, G., Watson, S.A., Donelson, J., Mccormick, M. & Munday, P. 2012, 'Parental Environment Mediates Impacts Of Increased Carbon Dioxide On A Coral Reef Fish', Nature Climate Change, vol. 2, no. 12, pp. 858-861.
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Carbon dioxide concentrations in the surface ocean are increasing owing to rising CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere(1). Higher CO2 levels are predicted to affect essential physiological processes of many aquatic organisms(2,3), leading to widespread i
Donelson, J. & Munday, P. 2012, 'Thermal Sensitivity Does Not Determine Acclimation Capacity For A Tropical Reef Fish', Journal Of Animal Ecology, vol. 81, no. 5, pp. 1126-1131.
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1. Short-term measures of metabolic responses to warmer environments are expected to indicate the sensitivity of species to regional warming. However, given time, species may be able to acclimate to increasing temperature. Thus, it is useful to determine
Donelson, J.M., Munday, P.L. & McCormick, M.I. 2012, 'Climate change may affect fish through an interaction of parental and juvenile environments', Coral Reefs, vol. 31, no. 3, pp. 753-762.
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Changes to tropical sea surface temperature and plankton communities are expected to occur over the next 100 years due to climate change. There is a limited understanding of how these environmental changes are likely to impact coral reef fishes, especially in terms of population replenishment through the quality of progeny produced. The present study investigated the effect that elevated sea water temperature and changes to food availability may have on the production of offspring by the reef fish Acanthochromis polyacanthus (Pomacentridae), as well as the performance of progeny in environments of varying food availability. An orthogonal design of three water temperatures and two food availabilities (high and low ration) was used, with water temperatures being the current-day average for the collection location (28. 5 &deg;C), +1. 5 &deg;C (30. 0 &deg;C) and +3. 0 &deg;C (31. 5 &deg;C), representing likely temperatures by 2100. Generally, an increase in the water temperature for adults resulted in a reduction in the size, weight and amount of yolk possessed by newly hatched offspring. Offspring whose parents were maintained under elevated temperature (30. 0 &deg;C high ration) had lower survival than offspring produced by parents at the current-day temperature (28. 5 &deg;C high ration) at 15 days post-hatching, but only when juveniles were reared under conditions of low food availability. In contrast, by 30 days post-hatching, the growth and condition of these offspring produced by parents held under elevated temperature (30. 0 &deg;C high ration) were the best of all treatment groups in all levels of juvenile food availability. This result illustrates the potential for initial parental effects to be modified by compensatory growth early in life (within 1 month) and that parental effects are not necessarily long lasting. These findings suggest that the performance of juvenile reef fish in future ocean conditions may not only depend on initial parental effects, but the interaction between their...
Donelson, J.M., Munday, P.L., McCormick, M.I. & Pitcher, C.R. 2012, 'Rapid transgenerational acclimation of a tropical reef fish to climate change', Nature Climate Change, vol. 2, no. 1, pp. 30-32.
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Understanding the capacity of species to acclimate and adapt to expected temperature increases is critical for making predictions about the biological impacts of global warming, yet it is one of the least certain aspects of climate change science. Tropical species are considered to be especially sensitive to climate change because they live close to their thermal maximum and exhibit limited capacity for acclimation. Here, we demonstrate that a tropical reef fish is highly sensitive to small increases in water temperature, but can rapidly acclimate over multiple generations. Acute exposure to elevated temperatures (+1.5 &deg;C and +3.0 &deg;C) predicted to occur this century caused a 15% and 30% respective decrease in individual's maximum ability to perform aerobic activities such as swimming or foraging, known as aerobic scope. However, complete compensation in aerobic scope occurred when both parents and offspring were reared throughout their lives at elevated temperature. Such acclimation could reduce the impact of warming temperatures and allow populations to persist across their current range. This study reveals the importance of transgenerational acclimation as a mechanism for coping with rapid climate change and highlights that single generation studies risk underestimating the potential of species to cope. &copy; 2011 Macmillan Publishers Limited. All rights reserved.
Donelson, J., Munday, P., Mccormick, M. & Nilsson, G.E. 2011, 'Acclimation To Predicted Ocean Warming Through Developmental Plasticity In A Tropical Reef Fish', Global Change Biology, vol. 17, no. 4, pp. 1712-1719.
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Determining the capacity of organisms to acclimate and adapt to increased temperatures is key to understand how populations and communities will respond to global warming. Although there is evidence that elevated water temperature affects metabolism, growth and condition of tropical marine fish, it is unknown whether they have the potential to acclimate, given adequate time. We reared the tropical reef fish Acanthochromis polyacanthus through its entire life cycle at present day and elevated ( 1 1.5 and 1 3.0 1C) water temperatures to test its ability to thermally acclimate to ocean temperatures predicted to occur over the next 50100 years. Fish reared at 3.0 1C greater than the present day average reduced their resting oxygen consumption (RMR) during summer compared with fish reared at present day temperatures and tested at the elevated temperature. The reduction in RMR of up to 69 mg O2 kg1 h1 in acclimated fish could represent a significant benefit to daily energy expenditure. In contrast, there was no acclimation to summer temperatures exhibited by fish reared at 1.5 1C above present day temperatures. Fish acclimated to 1 3.0 1C were smaller and in poorer condition than fish reared at present day temperatures, suggesting that even with acclimation there will be significant consequences for future populations of tropical fishes caused by global warming.
Munday, P., Gagliano, M., Donelson, J., Dixson, D. & Thorrold, S. 2011, 'Ocean Acidification Does Not Affect The Early Life History Development Of A Tropical Marine Fish', Marine Ecology Progress Series, vol. 423, no. NA, pp. 211-221.
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Determining which marine species are sensitive to elevated CO2 and reduced pH, and which species tolerate these changes, is critical for predicting the impacts of ocean acidification on marine biodiversity and ecosystem function. Although adult fish are thought to be relatively tolerant to higher levels of environmental CO2, very little is known about the sensitivity of juvenile stages, which are usually much more vulnerable to environmental change. We tested the effects of elevated environmental CO2 on the growth, survival, skeletal development and otolith (ear bone) calcification of a common coral reef fish, the spiny damselfish Acanthochromis polyacanthus. Newly hatched juveniles were reared for 3 wk at 4 different levels of PCO2(seawater) spanning concentrations already experienced in near-reef waters (450 &igrave;atm CO2) to those predicted to occur over the next 50 to 100 yr in the IPCC A2 emission scenario (600, 725, 850 &igrave;atm CO2). Elevated PCO2 had no effect on juvenile growth or survival. Similarly, there was no consistent variation in the size of 29 different skeletal elements that could be attributed to CO2 treatments. Finally, otolith size, shape and symmetry (between left and right side of the body) were not affected by exposure to elevated PCO2, despite the fact that otoliths are composed of aragonite. This is the first comprehensive assessment of the likely effects of ocean acidification on the early life history development of a marine fish. Our results suggest that juvenile A. polyacanthus are tolerant of moderate increases in environmental CO2 and that further acidification of the ocean will not, in isolation, have a significant effect on the early life history development of this species, and perhaps other tropical reef fishes
Donelson, J.M., Munday, P.L., McCormick, M.I., Pankhurst, N.W. & Pankhurst, P.M. 2010, 'Effects of elevated water temperature and food availability on the reproductive performance of a coral reef fish', Marine Ecology Progress Series, vol. 401, pp. 233-243.
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Climate change is predicted to increase ocean temperatures and alter plankton communities that are food for many marine fishes. To examine the effects of increased sea surface temperature and fluctuating food levels on reef-fish reproduction, breeding pairs of the coral reef damselfish Acanthochromis polyacanthus were maintained for a full summer breeding season in an orthogonal experiment comprising 3 temperature and 2 food levels. Water temperatures were the current-day average summer temperature for the collection location (28.5&deg;C) and temperatures predicted to become close to the average for this region over the next 50 to 100 yr (30.0 and 31.5&deg;C). Pairs were fed either a high or low quantity diet based on average and minimum feeding rates in the wild. Both water temperature and food supply affected reproductive output. Fewer pairs bred at elevated water temperatures and no pairs reproduced at either of the higher temperatures on the lower quantity diet. Furthermore, eggs produced were smaller at 30.0 and 31.5&deg;C compared to those at 28.5&deg;C. Histological analysis of the gonads and steroid hormone measurement did not reveal any apparent differences in patterns of oogenesis among treatments. However, spermatogenesis was reduced at high temperatures despite some increases in plasma androgen levels. Reduced breeding rate at warmer temperatures combined with reduced sperm production indicates the potential for significant declines in A. polyacanthus populations as the ocean warms. Copyright &copy; 2010 Inter-Research.
Donelson, J., Munday, P. & Mccormick, M. 2009, 'Parental Effects On Offspring Life Histories: When Are They Important?', Biology Letters, vol. 5, no. 2, pp. 262-265.
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Both the parental legacy and current environmental conditions can affect offspring life histories; however, their relative importance and the potential relationship between these two influences have rarely been investigated. We tested for the interacting effects of parental and juvenile environments on the early life history of the marine fish Acanthochromis polyacanthus. Juveniles from parents in good condition were longer and heavier at hatching than juveniles from parents in poor condition. Parental effects on juvenile size were evident up to 29 days posthatching, but disappeared by 50 days. Offspring from good condition parents had higher early survival than offspring from poor-condition parents when reared in a low-food environment. By contrast, parental condition did not affect juvenile survival in the high-food environment. These results suggest that parental effects on offspring performance are most important when poor environmental conditions are encountered by juveniles. Furthermore, parental effects observed at hatching may often be moderated by compensatory mechanisms when environmental conditions are good.
Munday, P., Donelson, J., Dixson, D. & Endo, G. 2009, 'Effects Of Ocean Acidification On The Early Life History Of A Tropical Marine Fish', Proceedings Of The Royal Society B-biological Sciences, vol. 276, no. 1671, pp. 3275-3283.
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Little is known about how fishes and other non-calcifying marine organisms will respond to the increased levels of dissolved CO2 and reduced sea water pH that are predicted to occur over the coming century. We reared eggs and larvae of the orange clownfi
Munday, P., Dixson, D., Donelson, J., Jones, G., Pratchett, M., Devitsina, G. & Doving, K. 2009, 'Ocean Acidification Impairs Olfactory Discrimination And Homing Ability Of A Marine Fish', Proceedings Of The National Academy Of Sciences Of The United States Of America, vol. 106, no. 6, pp. 1848-1852.
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The persistence of most coastal marine species depends on larvae finding suitable adult habitat at the end of an offshore dispersive stage that can last weeks or months. We tested the effects that ocean acidification from elevated levels of atmospheric c
Donelson, J., Mccormick, M. & Munday, P. 2008, 'Parental Condition Affects Early Life-history Of A Coral Reef Fish', Journal Of Experimental Marine Biology And Ecology, vol. 360, no. 2, pp. 109-116.
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Parents can exert a range of non-genetic effects on the growth and survival of their offspring. In particular, parents may modify the size or condition of their offspring depending on the amount of energy they have available for reproduction. In this stu
Munday, P.L., Kingsford, M.J., O'Callaghan, M. & Donelson, J.M. 2008, 'Elevated temperature restricts growth potential of the coral reef fish Acanthochromis polyacanthus', Coral Reefs, vol. 27, no. 4, pp. 927-931.
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In order to test the effect of temperature variation on the growth of a common coral-reef fish, Acanthochromis polyacanthus, juveniles, sub-adults and adults were reared on either high or low food rations at temperatures corresponding to the long-term (14 year) minimum, average and maximum summer sea-surface temperatures (26, 28 and 31&deg;C respectively) at Orpheus Island, Great Barrier Reef, Australia. Both temperature and food supply affected the growth of juvenile and adult A. polyacanthus. Individuals grew more on high food rations, but growth declined with increasing temperature. Importantly, at 31&deg;C, the growth of juveniles and adults on the high food ration was nearly identical to growth on the low food ration. This indicates that the capacity for growth is severely limited at higher ocean temperatures that are predicted to become the average for Orpheus Island within the next 100 years as a result of rapid climate change. &copy; 2008 Springer-Verlag.