Temperature dependent pre- and postprandial activity in Pacific bluefin tuna (Thunnus orientalis)

Comp Biochem Physiol A Mol Integr Physiol. 2019 May;231:131-139. doi: 10.1016/j.cbpa.2019.01.025. Epub 2019 Feb 5.


Bluefin tunas are highly specialized fish with unique hydrodynamic designs and physiological traits. In this study, we present results in a captive population that demonstrate strong effects of ambient temperature on the tail beat frequency and swimming speed of a pelagic fish in both pre- and post-prandial states. We measured the responses of a ram ventilator, the Pacific bluefin tuna (Thunnus orientalis), after digestion of a meal to explore the impacts of the metabolic costs of digestion on behavior and respiration. A combination of respirometry, physiological biologging of visceral temperatures, and activity monitoring with accelerometry were used to explore the metabolic costs of digestion and the impacts on ventilation and swimming speed. Experiments were conducted at temperatures that are within the metabolic optimum for Pacific bluefin tuna (17 °C), and at a second temperature corresponding to the upper distributional limit of the species in the California Current (24 °C). Warmer temperatures resulted in higher tail-beat frequency and greater elevation of body temperature in pre-prandial Pacific bluefin tuna. Specific dynamic action (SDA) events resulted in a significant postprandial increase in tail-beat frequency of ~0.2 Hz, compared to pre-prandial levels of 1.5 Hz (17 °C) and 1.75 Hz (24 °C), possibly resulting from ventilatory requirements. Data of fish exercised in a swim-tunnel respirometer suggest that the observed increase in tail-beat frequency comprise 5.5 and 6.8% of the oxygen demand during peak SDA at 24 °C and 17 °C respectively. The facultative increase in swimming speed might increase oxygen uptake at the gills to meet the increasing demand by visceral organs involved in the digestive process, potentially decreasing the available energy of each meal for other metabolic processes, such as growth, maturation, and reproduction. We hypothesize that these post-prandial behaviors allow tuna to evacuate their guts more quickly, ultimately permitting fish to feed more frequently when prey is available.

Keywords: Accelerometer; Aerobic scope; Energetics; Specific Dynamic Action; Temperature dependence.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Energy Metabolism
  • Oxygen Consumption
  • Postprandial Period*
  • Swimming
  • Temperature*
  • Tuna / metabolism
  • Tuna / physiology*