Relationship between growth and standard metabolic rate: measurement artefacts and implications for habitat use and life-history adaptation in salmonids

J Anim Ecol. 2015 Jan;84(1):4-20. doi: 10.1111/1365-2656.12260. Epub 2014 Aug 4.


Mass-specific standard metabolic rate (SMR, or maintenance metabolism) varies greatly among individuals. Metabolism is particularly sensitive to variation in food consumption and growth creating the potential for significant bias in measured SMR for animals that are growing (e.g. juveniles) or of uncertain nutritional status. Consequently, interpreting individual variation in metabolism requires a sound understanding of the potentially confounding role of growth and the relative importance of fixed (genetic) vs. environmental drivers of SMR variation. We review the role of growth in measured SMR variation in juvenile salmonids, with the goals of (i) understanding the contribution of growth (and food consumption) to SMR variation through ontogeny, (ii) understanding the relative contributions of tissue maintenance and biosynthesis (overhead costs of growth) to apparent SMR variation, and (iii) using intrinsic growth effects on SMR to model how alternate life-history strategies may influence growth and measured SMR in juvenile salmonids. SMR measures on juveniles, even when post-absorptive, may be inflated by delayed growth-associated overhead costs, unless juveniles are on a maintenance ration (i.e. not growing). Empirical measurements of apparent SMR in food restricted vs. satiated 2-5 g juvenile salmon demonstrate that estimates may be inflated by as much as 67% due to delayed overhead costs of growth, even when SMR measurements are taken 35 h post-feeding. These results indicate that a substantial component of variation in apparent SMR among juvenile salmonids may be associated with (i) environmentally driven variation in ration (where elevated SMR measurements are an artefact of delayed growth overhead costs), (ii) intrinsic (genetic) or plastic organ-system trade-offs related to increasing investment in metabolically expensive digestive tissue responsible for processing food and (iii) intrinsic (genetic) variation in maximum body size and growth among individuals or life-history types. We suggest that selection for differences in adult body size among resident and anadromous forms leading to differences in juvenile growth trajectories may contribute to both SMR variation and habitat segregation in freshwater, where juveniles with higher growth are constrained to foraging in high velocity habitats to meet their greater consumption needs.

Keywords: metabolic allometry; organ system tradeoffs; reciprocal life‐history constraints; salmonid growth; standard metabolic rate variation; tissue maintenance costs.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Biological
  • Animals
  • Basal Metabolism*
  • Diet*
  • Ecosystem*
  • Salmonidae / growth & development*
  • Salmonidae / metabolism*