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J Fish Biol. 2016 Jan;88(1):298-321. doi: 10.1111/jfb.12699. Epub 2015 Nov 17.

Does individual variation in metabolic phenotype predict fish behaviour and performance?

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Institute of Biodiversity, Animal Health & Comparative Medicine, Graham Kerr Building, University of Glasgow, Glasgow G12 8QQ, U.K.
Scottish Centre for Ecology and the Natural Environment (SCENE), University of Glasgow, Rowardennan, Loch Lomond, Glasgow G63 0AW, U.K.


There is increasing interest in documenting and explaining the existence of marked intraspecific variation in metabolic rate in animals, with fishes providing some of the best-studied examples. After accounting for variation due to other factors, there can typically be a two to three-fold variation among individual fishes for both standard and maximum metabolic rate (SMR and MMR). This variation is reasonably consistent over time (provided that conditions remain stable), and its underlying causes may be influenced by both genes and developmental conditions. In this paper, current knowledge of the extent and causes of individual variation in SMR, MMR and aerobic scope (AS), collectively its metabolic phenotype, is reviewed and potential links among metabolism, behaviour and performance are described. Intraspecific variation in metabolism has been found to be related to other traits: fishes with a relatively high SMR tend to be more dominant and grow faster in high food environments, but may lose their advantage and are more prone to risk-taking when conditions deteriorate. In contrast to the wide body of research examining links between SMR and behavioural traits, very little work has been directed towards understanding the ecological consequences of individual variation in MMR and AS. Although AS can differ among populations of the same species in response to performance demands, virtually nothing is known about the effects of AS on individual behaviours such as those associated with foraging or predator avoidance. Further, while factors such as food availability, temperature, hypoxia and the fish's social environment are known to alter resting and MMRs in fishes, there is a paucity of studies examining how these effects vary among individuals, and how this variation relates to behaviour. Given the observed links between metabolism and measures of performance, understanding the metabolic responses of individuals to changing environments will be a key area for future research because the environment will have a strong influence on which animals survive predation, become dominant and ultimately have the highest reproductive success. Although current evidence suggests that variation in SMR may be maintained within populations via context-dependent fitness benefits, it is suggested that a more integrative approach is now required to fully understand how the environment can modulate individual performance via effects on metabolic phenotypes encompassing SMR, MMR and AS.


aerobic scope; dominance; fitness; growth; metabolism; specific dynamic action

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