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.
Two injured Sherpas recount the horrific avalanche on Mount Everest.
Two new studies help determine age of Antarctic ice and former climate
It was an extra special Earth Day for 31 endangered sea turtles which were released back into the wild at Little Talbot Island near Jacksonville, Fla. The animals had spent months in rehabilitation at New England Aquarium's rescue center, being treated for hypothermia.
The Pakistani government hopes to turn a desolate stretch of sand into a state-of-the-art solar energy park, in a bid to tackle the country's chronic power shortages
On Earth Day, we celebrate a planet that has nurtured human life. But it wasn't always so nice—and as the climate changes, it may get worse
Let people who love sore backs and dirty fingernails painstakingly tend their gardenias. Today’s backyard should be a maximized, automated, hyperefficient system of caloric production. With a little science—and some engineering prowess—you can keep your plot tidy, pest-free, and healthy while barely lifting a finger. So kick back with a gin-spiked kombucha and let your self-maintaining yard crank out the zero-mile arugula.
James Day Winemaking may conjure images of sun-dappled vineyards and grand châteaus. But a typical bottle of Napa Cabernet owes more to lab-coat-wearing chemists than to barefoot grape stompers. Like most foodstuffs, wine has been thoroughly industrialized.
A group of researchers in Florida may have found a way to control the weather, through the use of dual lasers
Environmentalists have long worried about biofuels like corn ethanol. But a new study shows that even advanced biofuels, which use waste from crops like corn to make fuel, may hurt the climate
Animals sometimes sleep inside the hollows of giant 2,000-year old baobab trees inside Kruger Game Preserve in South Africa. Humans too, sometimes use the trees, for more dubious purposes -- a jail, a toilet, a pop-up bar -- as photographer Rachel Sussman discovered when she toured the park to photograph the trees for her new book, The Oldest Living Things in the World.