donelson_comprOrganizers: Jennifer DONELSON / Rebecca FOX / Juan Diego GAITAN-ESPITIA / William GLADSTONE
Affiliations: ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, James Cook University, Australia / School of Life Sciences, University of Technology Sydney, Australia / Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, Oceans and Atmosphere Flagship / School of Life Sciences, University of Technology Sydney, Australia
Lead contact: Jennifer Donelson

Description: Once considered just a nuisance by ecologists, phenotypic plasticity or the ability to express different phenotypes under varying environmental conditions is now of major interest to evolutionary biologists. The unprecedented rates of environmental change that are occurring in aquatic environments as a result of pollution, global warming, overfishing and habitat destruction have increased the need to understand species’ potential to respond over short-term horizons.
In this session we want to ask: What flexibility do fish already express in relation to environmental variation in aspects of their phenotype? What potential do teleosts have to exhibit plasticity to altered habitats or to changes in abiotic environmental conditions (such as warmer water temperatures or altered rainfall patterns)? Are some traits more plastic than others? How much does plasticity cost the individual? Why are some species more prone than others to show plastic responses? Answering these questions will bring together physiologists, behavioural ecologists, life-history biologists, population demographers and resource managers. Our aim is threefold: firstly to collate evidence of changes that are already taking place (e.g. morphological or behavioural changes that have occurred in response to altered habitat structure, changes in the timing of critical life-history events such as onset of spawning). Secondly, to examine the experimental work being done to determine the impacts of specific environmental changes on phenotypes and the implications for life-history parameters such as rates of maturation, reproductive performance, offspring sex-ratios and, finally, to highlight the work being done to elucidate the mechanisms (including genetics) behind these phenotypic responses.

Expected Audience: We expect this session to attract biologists and ecologists from a broad range of disciplines, encompassing physiology, behaviour, morphology, life-history evolution, and population dynamics. We also expect the session to attract input from applied practitioners (particularly those with long-term data sets from which phenological trends can be extracted) and resource managers who wish to consider the potential implications of phenotypic plasticity on population dynamics of particular species. As a specific output from the session, we would like to invite participants to co-author a publication that draws together the evidence presented on patterns of phenotypic change that have already taken place in teleost populations in response to global change, as well as discuss where to focus future research efforts. We believe that this would be an important contribution to a field that is currently dominated by northern hemisphere data and typically focused on birds and plants.