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Journal Articles Frontiers in Marine Science Year : 2020

Unusually Paced Life History Strategies of Marine Megafauna Drive Atypical Sensitivities to Environmental Variability

Abstract

Understanding why different life history strategies respond differently to changes in environmental variability is necessary to be able to predict eco-evolutionary population responses to change. Marine megafauna display unusual combinations of life history traits. For example, rays, sharks and turtles are all long-lived, characteristic of slow life histories. However, turtles also have very high reproduction rates and juvenile mortality, characteristic of fast life histories. Sharks and rays, in contrast, produce a few live-born young, which have low mortality rates, characteristic of slow life histories. This raises the question if marine megafaunal responses to environmental variability follow conventional life history patterns, including the pattern that fast life histories are more sensitive to environmental autocorrelation than slow life histories. To answer this question, we used a functional trait approach to quantify for different species of mobulid rays, cheloniid sea turtles and carcharhinid sharks – all inhabitants or visitors of (human-dominated) coastalscapes – how their life history, average size and log stochastic population growth rate, log(λ s ), respond to changes in environmental autocorrelation and in the frequency of favorable environmental conditions. The faster life histories were more sensitive to temporal frequency of favourable environmental conditions, but both faster and slower life histories were equally sensitive, although of opposite sign, to environmental autocorrelation. These patterns are atypical, likely following from the unusual life history traits that the megafauna display, as responses were linked to variation in mortality, growth and reproduction rates. Our findings signify the importance of understanding how life history traits and population responses to environmental change are linked. Such understanding is a basis for accurate predictions of marine megafauna population responses to environmental perturbations like (over)fishing, and to shifts in the autocorrelation of environmental variables, ultimately contributing toward bending the curve on marine biodiversity loss.
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hal-04002718 , version 1 (23-02-2023)

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Isabel M Smallegange, Marta Flotats Avilés, Kim Eustache. Unusually Paced Life History Strategies of Marine Megafauna Drive Atypical Sensitivities to Environmental Variability. Frontiers in Marine Science, 2020, 7, ⟨10.3389/fmars.2020.597492⟩. ⟨hal-04002718⟩
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