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ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies
James Cook University Townsville
Queensland 4811 Australia

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Email: info@coralcoe.org.au

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Murky waters leave reef fish out of breath

02
Nov 2017

Posted By

ARC CoE for Coral Reef Studies

Declining water quality due to human activities threatens the health of coastal reefs globally. But, what does this mean for reef inhabitants such as the iconic damselfish?

Researchers at Coral CoE, led by PhD student Sybille Hess, examined three species of coral reef damselfishes. They found that all three species remodelled their gills in response to elevated suspended sediments levels.

While remodelling can be beneficial in some species, metabolic performance was compromised in one species here: cinnamon anemonefish struggled to ‘breathe’ and uptake sufficient oxygen following exhaustive exercise. The other two species – clownfish and spiny chromis – were largely unaffected.

The bottom line: Different responses to declining water quality by species could result in reorganisation of fish communities on coastal reefs.

The paper: “Species-specific impacts of suspended sediments on gill structure and function in coral reef fishes” by Sybille Hess, Leteisha Prescott, Andrew S. Hoey, Shannon McMahon, Amelia S. Wenger and Jodie L. Rummer is published today in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences.

Check out the related video, courtesy of Australian Academy of Science.

Four-week-old anemonefish (Amphiprion melanopus) sitting in a test chamber while its oxygen uptake is being recorded. Fish raised in suspended sediments struggled to take up sufficient oxygen during an exhaustive physical test, which is an indication that these fish may also struggle with activities important for their survival on the reef, such as swimming or escaping from predators. Credit: Hess et al. 2017
Four-week-old anemonefish (Amphiprion melanopus) sitting in a test chamber while its oxygen uptake is being recorded. Fish raised in suspended sediments struggled to take up sufficient oxygen during an exhaustive physical test, which is an indication that these fish may also struggle with activities important for their survival on the reef, such as swimming or escaping from predators. Credit: Hess et al. 2017

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Coral Reef Studies

ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies
James Cook University Townsville
Queensland 4811 Australia

Phone: 61 7 4781 4000
Email: info@coralcoe.org.au