Image-of-the-Week: Fish Futures

| Fri Nov. 4, 2011 1:21 PM EDT

Anemonefish protecting its eggs.: Credit: Silke Baron via Wikimedia Commons.Anemonefish protecting its eggs. Credit: Silke Baron via Wikimedia Commons.

Coral reef dwellers, like this anemonefish guarding its eggs, may be at greater risk from climate change than species on the land. A new paper in Science reports that while while the land has warmed faster than the ocean over the past 50 years, the rates of temperature shifts in the sea are greater than on land. Drawing on five decades of global temperature data from the UK's Hadley Centre, the authors tracked the velocity of oceanic climate change in two ways: 1) geographical shifts in temperature bands (isotherms) and, 2) seasonal changes in temperature. They found that geographic shifts in isotherms have outpaced changes on land. Which means marine life must adapt rapidly to keep pace with big habitat changes in the ocean. Recent changes along the California coast—increases in abundance of tropical Humboldt squid and decreases in abundance of salmon—are in keeping with their findings.

The paper: