Predicting future distributions of lanternfish, a significant ecological resource within the Southern Ocean

Jennifer Freer*, Geraint A. Tarling, Martin A. Collins, Julian Partridge, Martin J Genner

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

23 Citations (Scopus)
237 Downloads (Pure)


Aim: Lanternfish (Myctophidae) are one of the most abundant and ecologically important families of pelagic teleosts, yet how these species will respond to climate change is unclear, especially within polar regions. The aim of this study was to predict the impact of climate change on the distribution of Southern Ocean lanternfish and to relate these predicted responses to species traits. Location: Circumpolar, 35–75°S. Methods: We used MaxEnt ecological niche models to estimate the present and predict the future distributions of 10 biomass-dominant lanternfish species throughout the region. Future conditions were simulated using eight climate models, in both stabilizing (RCP 4.5) and rising (RCP 8.5) emission scenarios, for the time periods 2006–2055 and 2050–2099. Species responses were then related to their realized thermal niche (i.e., thermal tolerance range), latitudinal preference and body size. Results: Despite large variation between climate model simulations, all but one species are consistently predicted to undergo a poleward distribution shift. Species show contrasting projections relating to a gain or loss of suitable habitat which was best explained by their thermal niche. Overall, high-latitude Antarctic species were found to have narrower thermal niches and a higher likelihood of losing habitat than sub-Antarctic species. Main conclusions: The direction of a species response was dependent on the interplay between physiology (realized thermal niche) and biogeography (latitudinal preference). Antarctic species with restricted thermal niches and limited available habitat in which to disperse will be the most vulnerable group of Southern Ocean lanternfish in the face of climate change. Predicted range shifts may alter the size structure of the myctophid community as smaller, sub-Antarctic species reach further south. This could have implications for trophic interactions and thus the wider Southern Ocean ecosystem.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1259-1272
Number of pages14
JournalDiversity and Distributions
Issue number8
Early online date16 May 2019
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2019


  • climate response
  • Myctophidae
  • ocean warming
  • projection
  • Southern Ocean
  • ecological niche modelling
  • thermal tolerance
  • thermal niche


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