Temperature-induced mismatches between consumption and metabolism reduce consumer fitness

Ecology. 2012 Nov;93(11):2483-9. doi: 10.1890/12-0375.1.


As physiological processes of ectotherms are coupled to environmental temperature, climate change will likely alter their fundamental biological rates, including metabolism, consumption, growth, and reproduction. Here we combine the metabolic theory of ecology (MTE) with metabolism and consumption measurements of a model organism, the urchin Lytechinus variegatus, to test how climate change will affect consumer fitness. Unexpectedly, we found that metabolism and consumption exhibit different scaling relationships with temperature and are mismatched at high temperatures. This led to a dramatic reduction in ingestion efficiency and potentially in consumer fitness. Using metaanalysis, we showed that such temperature-driven mismatches between consumption and metabolism are common across taxa and frequently lead to reduced consumer fitness. Our empirical and synthetic analyses identify a mechanism by which climate change reduces the fitness of ectotherm consumers that may be applied to a broad array of taxonomic groups. Moreover, we showed that the assumptions of MTE do not hold at temperatures near the upper range of species' thermal tolerances for a wide array of taxa. Models using MTE to predict the effects of climate change on consumer-resource dynamics may therefore be underestimating the consequences of rising temperatures on population and community dynamics.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Eating*
  • Energy Metabolism
  • Models, Biological*
  • Oxygen Consumption
  • Sea Urchins / physiology*
  • Temperature