Distribution of Palinuridae and Scyllaridae phyllosoma larvae within the East Australian Current: a climate change hot spot Academic Article uri icon


  • Many marine species are predicted to shift their ranges poleward due to rising ocean temperatures driven by climate change. For benthic marine species with pelagic larval stages, poleward range shifts are often facilitated through pelagic larval transport via western boundary currents (WBC). By surveying pelagic larval distributions within WBCs, species advected poleward of their known distributions can be identified and monitored. Palinurid and scyllarid lobster larvae (phyllosoma) have long pelagic larval durations, providing high potential for poleward advection. We surveyed spatial distribution of phyllosoma within the western-boundary East Australian Current. Due to difficulties morphologically identifying phyllosoma, we tested the utility of molecular identification using cytochrome c oxidase I (COI). From COI sequences of 56 phyllosoma and one postlarva, 65% of sequences consisted of good-quality mitochondrial DNA. Across water types sampled, scyllarid phyllosoma exhibited relatively homogeneous distribution, whereas palinurid phyllosoma exhibited heterogeneous distribution with greatest abundance inside a warm core eddy on the south coast of eastern Australia. Two tropical and one subtropical palinurid species were detected ~75–1800km to the south or south-west of their known species distribution. Our results indicate tropical lobster species are reaching temperate regions, providing these species the opportunity to establish in temperate regions if or when environmental conditions become amenable to settlement.

publication date

  • 2019