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A rockling's choice: The trade-off between thermal preference and physical structure in the five bearded rockling, Ciliata mustela
Dye, B.; Tulp, I.; van Leeuwen, A.; Blom, E.; Schram, E. (2024). A rockling's choice: The trade-off between thermal preference and physical structure in the five bearded rockling, Ciliata mustela. J. Exp. Mar. Biol. Ecol. 570: 151959.
In: Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology. Elsevier: New York. ISSN 0022-0981; e-ISSN 1879-1697, meer
Peer reviewed article  

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Author keywords

    Temperature preference; Behavioral thermoregulation; Habitat selection; Habitat association; Ciliata mustela

Auteurs  Top 
  • Blom, E., meer
  • Schram, E.

    Changes in the environment can alter the suitability of habitats for organisms. In marine systems, fish species have their own specific requirements in terms of temperature and other habitat features. Behavioral responses such as thermoregulatory behavior in ectothermic species allow mobile organisms to respond to detrimental changes and search for more suitable habitats. However, for many species, limited information exists on the ecological requirements to help explain species abundance in a changing habitat. An example of a quickly changing habitat is the Wadden Sea, where five bearded rockling (Ciliata mustela) abundance has increased, unlike other Wadden Sea species. The increasing abundance of rockling has coincided with increasing average sea water temperatures and the recovery of mussel and Pacific oyster beds. Warming waters and increased structural habitat may have provided rockling with a more desirable habitat. Therefore, to better understand why rockling abundance is increasing within a changing Wadden Sea, a water temperature preference chamber was used to determine rockling’s preferred temperature range. In addition, rockling’s affinity for structural habitat and the trade-off between preferred temperature was examined by following their response to the systematic removal of artificial physical structures within the preferred temperature conditions. The preferred temperature range of rockling was found to be 10.4–15.7 ◦C. Following structure removals, rockling repeatedly moved away from their chosen temperatures to adjacent compartments with different temperatures but containing physical structure, indicating that the presence of physical structure was more important than preferred temperature until 18.6 ◦C. These novel findings provide insight and experimental support for the hypothesis explaining rockling’s increase in the Wadden Sea: 1) mean annual temperatures have been steadily increasing towards rockling’s preferred thermal range and 2) increasing mussel and Pacific oyster beds are plausibly providing structural habitat, an important habitat requirement for rockling. When fish display a strong association with physical structure it is necessary to link physiological and habitat preferences to better understand climate change related responses.

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