RISING ocean temperatures are leading to major developmental problems for coral reef fish, James Cook University researchers say.
The researchers from the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies found long, hot summers could wreak havoc on the young, with larval development slowed after water temperatures increased above 28 degrees.
Professor Mark McCormick said the study raised major concerns about the impact climate change could have on reef fish populations.
"To see adverse effects over the current-day temperature range raises concerns about the serious negative effects we may see when the ocean temperature warms with climate change," he said.
Dr Ian McLeod said most fish had a larval stage when they were more vulnerable to predators, so the longer they were larvae, the lower their survival rate.
"Faster growth during the larval stage should lead to a survival advantage," he said.