As Earth's temperature continues to rise, sudden warming events, designated as marine heatwaves (MHWs), are becoming more frequent and longer. This phenomenon is already shown to significantly impact marine ecosystems and respective fauna. While experimental acclimation to higher temperatures is known to affect predatory behavior, metabolism and overall fitness of sharks, the effects of short-term exposure to high temperatures on sharks’ physiology has yet to be investigated in a MHW context. Thus, the aim of our work was to study the impact of a category II MHW (Δ3 °C, 15 days) on: i) hematological parameters (total erythrocytes, leukocytes, thrombocytes, erythrocyte nuclear abnormalities (ENAs) counts, and nucleus to cytoplasmic ratio), ii) heart and spleen to body ratios, and iii) ventilation rates of juvenile catsharks (Scyliorhinus canicula). We found that MHW exposure led to significant changes in normal blood cell counts, by lowering erythrocyte counts and nucleus to cytoplasm ratio, and increasing leukocyte and thrombocyte counts. Moreover, ventilation rates increased consistently over the course of the MHW. However, there were no changes regarding the presence of ENA, as well as spleen and heart to body ratios. Our findings indicate limited capabilities for coping with sudden warming events, suggesting potential disruption in shark physiological homeostasis as the frequency, duration and intensity of MHWs are expected to be strengthened.
- Marine heatwaves
- Scyliorhinus canicula