Migration in the cobia, and potential for adaptation to climate change

Dr Kevin Weng1, Mr Daniel Crear1, Mr Brian Watkins1, Dr Richard Brill1, Dr Alistair  Hobday2, DR Peter Bushnell3

1Virginia Institute Of Marine Science, Gloucester Point, Virginia 23062-1346, United States, 2CSIRO, Hobart, Australia, 3Indiana University South Bend, South Bend, United States

In order to adapt to climate change a species can redistribute to maintain its preferred environmental envelope or it can adapt to different environmental conditions. The resilience of a species to change may be related to a suite of physiological, ecological and genetic factors that fall within two categories: phenotypic plasticity and evolutionary adaptability. Plasticity refers to the variety of conditions that the species can successfully occupy in contemporary time, and is influenced by the breadth of its physiological (Pejus) limits, the diversity of its diet, and the flexibility of its spawning. Adaptability refers to the rate at which the species could evolve in order to live in different environmental conditions, and is influenced by generation time, mutation rate, allelic diversity, and contemporary diversity in key features such as spawning habitats. We use physiological experimentation, electronic tracking and published studies to investigate the likely response of Rachycentron canadum (cobia, a migratory coastal fish) to climate change. The species scores highly on all physiological, ecological and genetic factors related to resilience, suggesting that the cobia is well positioned to adapt to future changes.


Kevin Weng is a fish biologist who studies the movement ecology and habitat use of marine fishes, including reef fishes, pelagics and sharks.

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