Species-specific molecular responses of wild coral reef fishes during a marine heatwave

See allHide authors and affiliations

Science Advances  18 Mar 2020:
Vol. 6, no. 12, eaay3423
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aay3423


The marine heatwave of 2016 was one of the longest and hottest thermal anomalies recorded on the Great Barrier Reef, influencing multiple species of marine ectotherms, including coral reef fishes. There is a gap in our understanding of what the physiological consequences of heatwaves in wild fish populations are. Thus, in this study, we used liver transcriptomes to understand the molecular response of five species to the 2016 heatwave conditions. Gene expression was species specific, yet we detected overlap in functional responses associated with thermal stress previously reported in experimental setups. The molecular response was also influenced by the duration of exposure to elevated temperatures. This study highlights the importance of considering the effects of extreme warming events when evaluating the consequences of climate change on fish communities.

This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial license, which permits use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, so long as the resultant use is not for commercial advantage and provided the original work is properly cited.

View Full Text

Stay Connected to Science Advances