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Behavioural modification of range-extending coral reef fishes in temperate ecosystems

Cite this dataset

Coni, Ericka; Booth, David; Ferreira, Camilo; Nagelkerken, Ivan (2021). Behavioural modification of range-extending coral reef fishes in temperate ecosystems [Dataset]. Dryad.


1. Coral-reef fishes are shifting their distributions poleward in response to human-mediated ocean warming, yet the consequences for recipient temperate fish communities remain poorly understood. Behavioural modification is often the first response of species to environmental change, but we know little about how this might shape the ongoing colonisation by tropical fishes of temperate-latitude ecosystems under climate change.

2. In a global hotspot of ocean warming (southeast Australia), we quantified 14 behavioural traits of invading tropical and local co-occurring temperate fishes at 10 sites across a 730 km latitudinal gradient as a proxy of species behavioural niche space in different climate ranges (subtropical, warm-temperate, cold-temperate).

3. We found that tropical fishes (4 species) modified their behavioural niches as well as increased their overall behavioural niche breadth in their novel temperate ranges where temperate species predominate, but maintained a moderate to high niche segregation with native temperate species across latitudinal range position. Temperate species (3 co-occurring species) also modified their niches, but in contrast to tropical species, experienced an increased niche breadth towards subtropical ranges. Alterations to feeding and shoaling behaviours contributed most to niche modifications in tropical and temperate species, while behaviours related to alertness and escape from potential threats contributed least.

4. We here show that at warmer and colder range edges where community structures are being reshuffled due to climate change, behavioural generalism and niche modification are potential mechanisms adopted by tropical range extenders and native-temperate fishes to adjust to novel species interactions under climate change.