Finding the best estimates of metabolic rates in a coral reef fish

J Exp Biol. 2013 Jun 1;216(Pt 11):2103-10. doi: 10.1242/jeb.082925. Epub 2013 Mar 7.


Metabolic rates of aquatic organisms are estimated from measurements of oxygen consumption rates ( ) through swimming and resting respirometry. These distinct approaches are increasingly used in ecophysiology and conservation physiology studies; however, few studies have tested whether they yield comparable results. We examined whether two fundamental measures, standard metabolic rate (SMR) and maximum metabolic rate (MMR), vary based on the method employed. Ten bridled monocle bream (Scolopsis bilineata) were exercised using (1) a critical swimming speed (Ucrit) protocol, (2) a 15 min exhaustive chase protocol and (3) a 3 min exhaustive chase protocol followed by brief (1 min) air exposure. Protocol 1 was performed in a swimming respirometer whereas protocols 2 and 3 were followed by resting respirometry. SMR estimates in swimming respirometry were similar to those in resting respirometry when a three-parameter exponential or power function was used to extrapolate the swimming speed- relationship to zero swimming speed. In contrast, MMR using the Ucrit protocol was 36% higher than MMR derived from the 15 min chase protocol and 23% higher than MMR using the 3 min chase/1 min air exposure protocol. For strong steady (endurance) swimmers, such as S. bilineata, swimming respirometry can produce more accurate MMR estimates than exhaustive chase protocols because oxygen consumption is measured during exertion. However, when swimming respirometry is impractical, exhaustive chase protocols should be supplemented with brief air exposure to improve measurement accuracy. Caution is warranted when comparing MMR estimates obtained with different respirometry methods unless they are cross-validated on a species-specific basis.

Keywords: critical swimming speed; ecophysiology; maximum metabolic rate; oxygen consumption rate; respirometry; standard metabolic rate.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Basal Metabolism*
  • Coral Reefs
  • Oxygen Consumption
  • Perciformes / physiology*
  • Respiratory Physiological Phenomena
  • Swimming