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Smaller adult fish size in warmer water is not explained by elevated metabolism


Wootton, HF and Morrongiello, JR and Schmitt, T and Audzijonyte, A, Smaller adult fish size in warmer water is not explained by elevated metabolism, Ecology Letters, 25, (5) pp. 1177-1188. ISSN 1461-023X (2022) [Refereed Article]

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Copyright Statement

Copyright (2022) The Authors. This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International (CC BY-NC 4.0) License, ( which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited and is not used for commercial purposes.

DOI: doi:10.1111/ele.13989


Fish and other ectotherms living in warmer waters often grow faster as juveniles, mature earlier, but become smaller adults. Known as the temperature-size rule (TSR), this pattern is commonly attributed to higher metabolism in warmer waters, leaving fewer resources for growth. An alternative explanation focuses on growth and reproduction trade-offs across temperatures. We tested these hypotheses by measuring growth, maturation, metabolism and reproductive allocation from zebrafish populations kept at 26 and 30°C across six generations. Zebrafish growth and maturation followed TSR expectations but were not explained by baseline metabolic rate, which converged between temperature treatments after a few generations. Rather, we found that females at 30C allocated more to reproduction, especially when maturing at the smallest sizes. We show that elevated temperatures do not necessarily increase baseline metabolism if sufficient acclimation is allowed and call for an urgent revision of modelling assumptions used to predict population and ecosystem responses to warming.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Keywords:climate change, fish, life history, metabolism, temperature size rule, trade-off, warming
Research Division:Biological Sciences
Research Group:Ecology
Research Field:Ecological physiology
Objective Division:Environmental Management
Objective Group:Terrestrial systems and management
Objective Field:Assessment and management of terrestrial ecosystems
UTAS Author:Audzijonyte, A (Dr Asta Audzijonyte)
ID Code:150799
Year Published:2022
Funding Support:Australian Research Council (DP190101627)
Web of Science® Times Cited:1
Deposited By:Ecology and Biodiversity
Deposited On:2022-06-30
Last Modified:2022-08-08

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