Coping with El Niño: phenotypic flexibility of reproductive traits in red squat lobster determines recruitment success

Andres Flores, Rodrigo Wiff, Mauricio Ahumada, Dante Queirolo, Pedro Apablaza

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Many organisms display changes in behaviour and life-history traits when facing variabilities in environmental conditions. A subset of these changes comprises reversible within-individual variations, known as phenotypic flexibility. Using red squat lobster (Pleuroncodes monodon) individuals harvested at the Humboldt Current Ecosystem (HCE), we evaluated how changes in habitat temperatures associated with warm El Niño (EN) conditions and cold La Niña conditions induce phenotypic flexibility in reproductive traits and how this flexibility affects recruitment success. The biological data were obtained from swept area surveys conducted between 2015 and 2020. Remotely sensed sea surface temperature (SST) data were used to compute anomalies (SSTA). Our results showed that females facing warmer environmental conditions carried more eggs with smaller sizes, and under cold conditions, females carried fewer eggs with larger sizes. The recruitments lagged by 1 year correlated positively with the egg density and negatively with the egg size. Our evidence shows that for phenotypic flexibility to be expressed in recruitment success, the warm conditions experienced by females should match good food availability for the planktonic stages. We discussed how climate change predictions for HCE will amplify responses of the reproductive traits of red squat lobster with strong impacts on recruitment likely.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3709-3723
Number of pages15
JournalICES Journal of Marine Science
Issue number10
StatePublished - 1 Dec 2021


  • El Niño
  • climate index
  • egg size
  • fecundity
  • recruitment
  • sea temperature
  • squat lobster


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