Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Document Type

Thesis

School

Faculty of Arts and Sciences

Department

Biology

Abstract

Increasing ocean temperatures have been a problem for marine ecosystems and this issue is expected to get worse throughout the next century, with temperatures projected to increase by 2-3.5 ºC. Warmer waters can have various negative effects on marine ecosystems, such as loss of breeding areas, loss of biodiversity, or impacts on marine organisms’ biological functions (e.g. decreased growth, increased metabolic rates, and altered reproduction). One particular area of concern is how these increasing temperatures can affect fish growth and physiology. Even though past studies have looked at the interaction between metabolic rate and increasing temperatures, there has been little research done on the species commonly found in Narragansett Bay. Scup (Stenotomus chrysops) and Atlantic silversides (Menidia menidia) are two abundant planktivorous fish species found in the Bay that serve as good model organisms to examine the effects of increasing water temperatures. Growth and condition indices were investigated in Menidia menidia and respirometry experiments were used in both species to determine how these fish respond to increasing water temperatures. The Fulton index of condition for animals shortly after being wild caught was significantly higher than the two treatment groups that mimicked environment and elevated temperature by 2 ºC and there were no statistical differences between RNA:DNA ratios in these three treatments. Basal and maximum metabolic rates of both species increased with increasing testing temperatures, while the aerobic scope was unchanged with different held or testing temperatures. Maximum metabolic rate of Menidia menidia was also significantly affected by held temperature. By collecting this information, the impact of rising seawater temperatures in Narragansett Bay can be better assessed and communicated to decision-makers and community partners in an effort to protect these keystone species and maintain biodiversity and ecosystem health.

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