Metabolic scope and interspecific competition in sculpins are affected by climate change.
Journal article, 2013
Ongoing climate change has led to an increase in sea surface temperatures of 2–4°C on the west coast of Greenland. Since fish are ectothermic, metabolic rate increases with ambient temperature. This makes these animals particularly sensitive to changes in temperature; subsequently any change may influence their metabolic scope, i.e. the physiological capacity to undertake aerobically challenging activities. Any temperature increase may thus disrupt species-specific temperature adaptations, at both the molecular level as well as in behavior, and concomitant species differences in the temperature sensitivity may shift the competitive balance among coexisting species. We investigated the influence of temperature on metabolic scope and competitive ability in three species of marine sculpin that coexist in Greenland coastal waters. Since these species have different distribution ranges, we hypothesized that there should be a difference in their physiological response to temperature; hence we compared their metabolic scope at three temperatures (4, 9 and 14°C). Their competitive ability at the ambient temperature of 9°C was also tested in an attempt to link physiological capacity with behaviour. The Arctic staghorn sculpin, the species with the northernmost distribution range, had a lower metabolic scope in the higher temperature range compared to the other two species, which had similar metabolic scope at the three temperatures. The Arctic staghorn sculpin also had reduced competitive ability at 9°C and may thus already be negatively affected by the current ocean warming. Our results suggest that climate change can have effects on fish physiology and interspecific competition, which may alter the species composition of the Arctic fish fauna.