Future thermal regimes for epaulette sharks

Published on
12. January 2021

Future thermal regimes for epaulette sharks (Hemiscyllium ocellatum): growth and metabolic performance cease to be optimal

Carolyn R. Wheeler, Jodie L. Rummer, Barbara Bailey, Jamie Lockwood, Shelby Vance, John W. Mandelman


Climate change is affecting thermal regimes globally, and organisms relying on their environment to regulate biological processes face unknown consequences. In ectotherms, temperature affects development rates, body condition, and performance. Embryonic stages may be the most vulnerable life history stages, especially for oviparous species already living at the warm edge of their distribution, as embryos cannot relocate during this developmental window. We reared 27 epaulette shark (Hemiscyllium ocellatum) embryos under average summer conditions (27 °C) or temperatures predicted for the middle and end of the twenty-first century with climate change (i.e., 29 and 31 °C) and tracked growth, development, and metabolic costs both in ovo and upon hatch. Rearing sharks at 31 °C impacted embryonic growth, yolk consumption, and metabolic rates. Upon hatch, 31 °C-reared sharks weighed significantly less than their 27 °C-reared counterparts and exhibited reduced metabolic performance. Many important growth and development traits in this species may peak after 27 °C and start to become negatively impacted nearing 31 °C. We hypothesize that 31 °C approximates the pejus temperature (i.e., temperatures at which performance of a trait begin to decline) for this species, which is alarming, given that this temperature range is well within ocean warming scenarios predicted for this species’ distribution over the next century.

Scientific Reports volume 11, Article number: 454, DOI: 10.1038/s41598-020-79953-0


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