To better understand the consequences of climate change for scleractinian corals, Stylophora pistillata was used to test the effects of temperature on the settlement and physiology of coral larvae. Freshly released larvae were exposed to temperatures of 23 degrees C, 25 degrees C (ambient), and 29 degrees C at light intensities of approximate to 150 mu mol photons m(-2) s(-1). The effects were assessed after 12 h as settlement to various substrata (including a choice between crustose coralline algae [CCA] and limestone) and as maximum quantum yield of PSII (F-v/F-m) in the larvae versus in their parents. Regardless of temperature, 50%-73% of the larvae metamorphosed onto the plastic of the incubation trays or in a few cases were drifting in the water, and 14% settled on limestone. However, elevated temperature (29 degrees C) reduced the percentage of larvae swimming by 81%, and increased the percentage choosing CCA nearly 7-fold, both relative to the outcomes at 23 degrees C. Because temperature did not affect settlement on limestone or plastic, increased settlement on CCA reflected temperature-mediated choices by larvae that otherwise would have remained swimming. Interestingly, F-v/F-m was unaffected by temperature, but it was 4% lower in the larvae than in the parents. These results are important because they show that temperature can affect the settlement of coral larvae and because they reveal photophysiological differences between life stages that might provide insights into the events associated with larval development.