Comparative analyses of animal-tracking data reveal ecological significance of endothermy in fishes

Y.Y. Watanabe, K.J. Goldman, J.E. Caselle, D.D. Chapman, Y.P. Papastamatiou

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

100 Citations (Scopus)


Despite long evolutionary separations, several sharks and tunas share the ability to maintain slow-twitch, aerobic red muscle (RM) warmer than ambient water. Proximate causes of RM endothermy are well understood, but ultimate causes are unclear. Two advantages often proposed are thermal niche expansion and elevated cruising speeds. The thermal niche hypothesis is generally supported, because fishes with RM endothermy often exhibit greater tolerance to broad temperature ranges. In contrast, whether fishes with RM endothermy cruise faster, and achieve any ecological benefits from doing so, remains unclear. Here, we compiled data recorded by modern animal-tracking tools for a variety of free-swimming marine vertebrates. Using phylogenetically informed allometry, we show that both cruising speeds and maximum annual migration ranges of fishes with RM endothermy are 2-3 times greater than fishes without it, and comparable to nonfish endotherms (i.e., penguins and marine mammals). The estimated cost of transport of fishes with RM endothermy is twice that of fishes without it. We suggest that the high energetic cost of RM endothermy in fishes is offset by the benefit of elevated cruising speeds, which not only increase prey encounter rates, but also enable larger-scale annual migrations and potentially greater access to seasonally available resources.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)6104-6109
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number19
Early online date20 Apr 2015
Publication statusPublished - 12 May 2015


  • Marine predator
  • Swim speed
  • Migration
  • Body temperature


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