Illustration of marine fish traits follow fast-slow continuum across oceans

Marine fish traits follow fast-slow continuum across oceans

Wednesday 04 Dec 19



Martin Lindegren
Senior Researcher
DTU Aqua
+45 35 88 34 92

Why do species occur where they are found? Looking at the traits that species carry may provide the answer, since they determine in which type of environment and with which other species it may live. We studied here the distribution of more than 1,200 marine fish species in the North Atlantic and Northeast Pacific to see if traits and the environment could explain their abundance.

Among the traits studied, lifespan, age at maturity and the growth coefficient K (a proxy for individual growth rate) varied most strongly with gradients in temperature, depth and seasonality in temperature. These traits best explained fish species abundances and their distribution. Both at the species and community level, marine fish followed a ‘fast-slow continuum’ of life histories, with faster-growing, shorter-living and earlier maturing species and communities in warmer, shallower and more seasonal waters. Thanks to the high spatial resolution of our data, we did not only see these patterns emerge across the large range in latitude, but also along more local coastal-to-offshore gradients.

Replacing space with time, our findings indicate that under global warming areas with increasing temperature will be more and more dominated by species at the fast end of the fast-slow continuum. This restructuring of communities may not only have consequences for the entire marine food web, but also for fishermen and fisheries managers that potentially need to adapt to conditions where large, slow-growing species may decline and small, fast-growing species may become increasingly abundant.

Beukhof E, Frelat R, Pecuchet L, Maureaud A, Dencker TS, Sólmundsson J, Punzon A, Primicerio R, Hidalgo M, Möllmann C, Lindegren M. (2019). Marine fish traits follow fast-slow continuum across oceans. Scientific Reports 9, 17878. DOI:10.1038/s41598-019-53998-2