Marine and Freshwater Research Marine and Freshwater Research Society
Advances in the aquatic sciences
RESEARCH ARTICLE

Range extensions in anemonefishes and host sea anemones in eastern Australia: potential constraints to tropicalisation

Hamish Malcolm A C and Anna Scott B

A Fisheries Research, Marine Ecosystems, NSW Department of Primary Industries, Department of Primary Industries, Locked Bag 800, Nelson Bay, NSW 2315, Australia.

B National Marine Science Centre and Marine Ecology Research Centre, Southern Cross University, PO Box 4321, Coffs Harbour, NSW 2450, Australia.

C Corresponding author. Email: hamish.malcolm@dpi.nsw.gov.au

Marine and Freshwater Research - https://doi.org/10.1071/MF15420
Submitted: 9 November 2015  Accepted: 5 October 2016   Published online: 6 December 2016

Abstract

Species distributions at range edges show complex shifts with climate change. The present study examined anemonefish and host sea anemone abundance at their southern distribution limits on the eastern coast of Australia, to identify factors influencing the geographic responses of the symbiosis. Roaming surveys (30 min) were conducted at 21 sites (~30.01–30.95°S) on rocky reefs in a tropical–temperate transition zone. Two species of host anemones (Entacmaea quadricolor and Heteractis crispa) and anemonefishes (Amphiprion akindynos and A. latezonatus) were found, along with Dascyllus trimaculatus. Nearly all anemones and anemonefishes (>99.5%) were associated with vegetated islands and rocky islets, and abundance was influenced by seawater temperature. Greater numbers of H. crispa and A. akindynos than E. quadricolor and A. latezonatus were found; however, most A. akindynos were juveniles. H. crispa provided nursery habitat for both fishes, whereas adult fishes utilised only E. quadricolor. A southern range extension was found for E. quadricolor, and overwintering of A. latezonatus had extended poleward since the mid-1990s. The paucity of islands and rocky islets south of our surveys, and host-usage patterns, could constrain future range extensions. These findings showed climate-driven latitudinal shifts are complex and are likely to be variably constrained for different species.

Additional keywords: biogeography, climate change, fish.


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