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Data from: Habitat change and its consequences on reef fish specialization in biogeographic transition zones


Lin, Yuting Vicky; Hsiao, Wanchien Victoria; Chen, Wei-Jen; Denis, Vianney (2022), Data from: Habitat change and its consequences on reef fish specialization in biogeographic transition zones, Dryad, Dataset,


Aim Reef fishes are commonly recognized as sentinels of the ongoing tropicalization in biogeographic transition zones between temperate and tropical areas. Despite the reliance of these marine ectotherms on the benthos, the importance of benthic habitat has rarely been considered as a factor constraining fish distribution. Therefore, our study aims at examining the consequences of both temperature and benthic variations on the fish fauna and diagnosing potential sentinels of these environmental changes. 

Location Taiwan, West Pacific.

Taxon Teleostei (184 species).

Methods We examined how the partitioning of habitats can influence the specialization of fish fauna along a latitudinal gradient. We diagnosed ‘specialist’ and ‘generalist’ fishes in this partitioning. For each specialist, we further evaluated whether its distribution is constrained by temperature, benthic habitat, or both factors combined. The change in sea surface temperature over the last three decades was also monitored.

Results Fish fauna showed the highest specialization when tropical and subtropical partitions of habitat were considered. Fifty-one tropical specialists, seven subtropical specialists, and 21 possible generalists were identified. Among specialists, 13 species were associated with temperature, 19 with habitat, and 26 with both factors. Steady warming occurred across latitudes but was accentuated in the winter of subtropical habitat. 

Main conclusions Our results suggested that the distribution of some specialist fishes was constrained only by temperature while the distribution of some others also depended on the availability of benthic habitats. Consequently, under global warming, the distribution of some specialists might shift in a manner that follows the movement of isotherms, while the distribution of others might also be conditioned by the poleward shifts of benthos. A temporal mismatch between the emergence of suitable thermal environments and the arrival of some specialists may exist. Therefore, the tropicalization of high-latitude areas may be characterized by different waves of colonization. 


Full details on sample collection and analyses are available in the published manuscript.

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Ministry of Science and Technology, Taiwan, Award: 108-2611-M-002-013

Ministry of Science and Technology, Taiwan, Award: 109-2611-M-002-017

Ocean Affairs Council, Taiwan, Award: OAC-UNIV-108-004