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For the First Time, Scientists Can Predict Traits for All Fish Worldwide

Scientists can now predict growth, survival, and reproductive strategies for all known fish in the world. The combination of traits a given species has developed to adapt to its niche and  environment makes up its life history strategy. The new model uses 33 traits—describing size, growth, reproduction, parental care, lifespan and more— to classify more than 34,000 fish species among three dominant strategy types.

The model uses relationships among these traits from species we know a lot about to predict strategies for data-poor species. The results will inform ecosystem-based fisheries management, help forecast consequences of climate change, and advance our understanding of evolutionary relationships. This model was developed by an international team led by Jim Thorson with the NOAA Fisheries Alaska Fisheries Science Center.

“Because of limited scientific resources, we can assess only a fraction of the fish species we catch around the world. Now we have a model that can predict traits and strategies for all the rest,” Thorson said. “That information is essential to set sustainable fishing limits and prepare for future change.”

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