Scientists believe that fish ear bones and their distinctive growth rings can offer clues to the likely impacts of climate change in aquatic environments.
The earbones, or 'otoliths', help fish to detect movement and to orient themselves in the water. Otoliths set down annual growth rings that can be measured and counted to estimate the age and growth rates of fish.
"Otoliths can form the basis of new techniques for modelling fish growth, productivity and distribution in future environments," said Dr John Morrongiello of CSIRO's Wealth from Oceans Flagship, lead author of a paper published online in Nature Climate Change today.
"They are widely used to support fishery stock assessments, and are beginning to be used to measure and predict ecological responses to ocean warming and climate change.
"Millions of otoliths are archived in research laboratories and museums worldwide, and many fish species live for decades and some, such as orange roughy, live for up to 150 years.
"Their otoliths record variations in growth rates that reflect environmental conditions. Longer-lived fish and older samples take us back as far as the 1800s."
The paper, co-authored by Dr Ron Thresher and Dr David Smith of CSIRO, builds on earlier research by Dr Thresher that identified the potential of using fish 'hard parts', (such as otoliths), and deep ocean corals to understand environmental change. It outlines a framework in which Australian research institutions can analyse hard parts and assess past and future impacts on a range of species.
In the next research phase, scientists at CSIRO, the Australian Institute of Marine Science and the University of Adelaide will study selected species of commercial interest, including tiger flathead, black bream, blue gropers, barramundi and tropical snappers.
"We will use otoliths to investigate the environmental drivers of fish growth for many species around Australia," Dr Morrongiello said.
"This will allow us to generate a continental-scale evaluation of climate change impacts on Australia's fishes and help to guide the conservation and management of our aquatic environments into the future."
Dr Thresher said there had already been extensive use of hard part archives from corals to reflect on climate variability, such as El Niño events, and to reconstruct environmental histories.
"Any change identified in growth and age maturity, especially of commercially-important species, clearly has implications for forecasting future stock states and the sustainable management of fisheries," Dr Thresher said.
"A better ability to predict such change will greatly enhance our ability to forecast, manage and adapt to the impacts of climate change in marine and freshwater systems."
CSIRO Australia: http://www.csiro.au
This press release was posted to serve as a topic for discussion. Please comment below. We try our best to only post press releases that are associated with peer reviewed scientific literature. Critical discussions of the research are appreciated. If you need help finding a link to the original article, please contact us on twitter or via e-mail.
Smithsonian photographer Laurie Penland details the exhausting, but rewarding, work of scraping invasive species off the hull of a boat
Politicians who ignore message cannot in future say they take science seriously, open letter says
In the wake of Hurricane Sandy two years ago, shocking photos showed the huge extent of the destruction caused by the storm. Only days after the storm struck, before and after satellite images from Google revealed the widespread damage to coastal areas of New York and New Jersey. Last year, before and after photos showed progress but still a lot of work to be done.
Australian scientists say they have successfully tested a vaccine aimed at protecting wild koalas from chlamydia.
A startup that might have a record-breaking solar cell is in danger of going out of business.The power unit is a rectangular slab about the size of a movie theater screen. It’s mounted on a thick steel post, and equipped with a tracking mechanism that continuously points it at the sun. The slab is made of over 100,000 small lenses and an equal number of even smaller solar cells, each the size of the tip of a ballpoint pen. This contraption is part of one of the most efficient solar power devices ever made.
There are several captive breeding programs for pandas around the world; but one facility in China hopes to release the endangered animals back into the wild
Researchers argue for a nationwide shift to more premium fuel at the pump
Bird watchers' elusive warbler has shifted its summer habitat to pine plantations
One-child policies and plagues that cut the population won't be enough to fix our ecological problems, models suggest. Only changes in consumption will do that
They were down to only 15 about 50 years ago