Last updated August 1, 2018 at 10:18 am
Global warming is bleaching the anemones that clownfish call home, and the stress is showing.
Sea anemones are falling prey to bleaching of reefs caused by global warming, with a cascading effect on other animals which rely on them, such as the anemonefish, or clownfish, that live symbiotically with them.
To understand what was happening, researchers compared juvenile orange-fin anemonefish living in bleached and unbleached sea anemones for two weeks.
The metabolic rate of fish from bleached anemones was 8.2 per cent higher than fish from unbleached anemones.
This stress, in turn, can have long-term effects on anemonefish, such as reducing their spawning frequency and lowering their fertility.
Activity levels between fish from bleached and unbleached environments did not differ.
Although this experiment was in a captive setting, the researchers suggest that in the wild, in order to compensate in an increased energy demand, the fish may take more risks of foraging which puts them at an increased risk of predation.
As bleaching events can last for several months, there could be more severe or other, as yet, unknown consequences on anemonefish, researchers say.
The authors end with a dire message about the likeliness of temperature increases being far beyond the experimental setting they used (28.6 °C) and that the observed energy demands could be far more for anemonefish.
They also make mention of other fish species and invertebrates that depend on hosts such as corals and anemones which could be drastically affected but remain to be studied.
This research was published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B.