Fish face a trade-off between 'eating big' for growth efficiency and 'eating small' to retain aerobic capacity
Norin, T and Clark, TD, Fish face a trade-off between 'eating big' for growth efficiency and 'eating small' to retain aerobic capacity, Biology Letters, 13, (9) Article 20170298. ISSN 1744-9561 (2017) [Refereed Article]
Feeding provides the necessary energy to fuel all fitness-related processes including activity, growth and reproduction. Nevertheless, prey consumption and digestive processes can have physical and physiological trade-offs with other critical functions, many of which are not clearly understood. Using an ambush predator, barramundi (Lates calcarifer), fed meals ranging 0.6–3.4% of body mass, we examined interrelations between meal size, growth efficiency and surplus aerobic metabolic capacity (aerobic scope, AS). Large meals required a greater absolute investment of energy to process (a larger so-called specific dynamic action, SDA), but the percentage of digestible meal energy required in the SDA response (SDA coefficient) decreased with increasing meal size. Combined with the findings that growth rate and growth efficiency also increased with food intake, our results demonstrate that it is energetically advantageous for fish to select large prey. However, following a large meal, SDA processes occupied up to 77% of the available AS, indicating that other oxygen-demanding activities like swimming may be compromised while large meals are processed. This trade-off between meal size and AS suggests that fishes like barramundi would benefit from regulating prey size based on imminent requirements and threats.