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Proc Biol Sci. 2007 Feb 7;274(1608):431-8.

Little left in the tank: metabolic scaling in marine teleosts and its implications for aerobic scope.

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  • 1Ocean Sciences Centre, Memorial University of Newfoundland, St John's, Newfoundland, Canada. r24ssk@mun.ca


Fish larvae are the world's smallest vertebrates, and their high rates of mortality may be partially owing to a very limited aerobic scope. Unfortunately, however, no complete empirical dataset exists on the relationship between minimal and maximal metabolism (and thus aerobic scope) for any fish species throughout ontogeny, and thus such an association is hard to delineate. We measured standard and maximal metabolism in three marine fish species over their entire life history, and show that while aerobic scope depends greatly on body size and developmental trajectory, it is extremely small during the early life stages (factorial aerobic scope < or =1.5). Our findings strongly suggest that limited scope for aerobic activity early in life is likely to constrain physiological function and ultimately impact behaviour and possibly survival. Furthermore, our results have important implications for ecological models that incorporate metabolic scaling, and provide additional evidence against the existence of 'universal' scaling exponents.

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