eCite Digital Repository

A new method for resolving uncertainty of energy requirements in large water breathers: the ‘mega-flume’ seagoing swim-tunnel respirometer


Payne, NL and Snelling, EP and Fitzpatrick, R and Seymour, J and Courtney, R and Barnett, A and Watanabe, YY and Sims, DW and Squire Jr, L and Semmens, JM, A new method for resolving uncertainty of energy requirements in large water breathers: the mega-flume' seagoing swim-tunnel respirometer, Methods in Ecology and Evolution, 6, (6) pp. 668-677. ISSN 2041-210X (2015) [Refereed Article]

Copyright Statement

Copyright 2015 The Authors

DOI: doi:10.1111/2041-210X.12358


  1. Body size is a key determinant of metabolic rate, but logistical constraints have led to a paucity of energetics measurements from large water-breathing animals. As a result, estimating energy requirements of large fish generally relies on extrapolation of metabolic rate from individuals of lower body mass using allometric relationships that are notoriously variable. Swim-tunnel respirometry is the ‘gold standard’ for measuring active metabolic rates in water-breathing animals, yet previous data are entirely derived from body masses <10 kg – at least one order of magnitude lower than the body masses of many top-order marine predators.
  2. Here, we describe the design and testing of a new method for measuring metabolic rates of large water-breathing animals: a c. 26 000 L seagoing ‘mega-flume’ swim-tunnel respirometer. We measured the swimming metabolic rate of a 2·1-m, 36-kg zebra shark Stegostoma fasciatum within this new mega-flume and compared the results to data we collected from other S. fasciatum (3·8–47·7 kg body mass) swimming in static respirometers and previously published measurements of active metabolic rate measurements from other shark species.
  3. The mega-flume performed well during initial tests, with intra- and interspecific comparisons suggesting accurate metabolic rate measurements can be obtained with this new tool. Inclusion of our data showed that the scaling exponent of active metabolic rate with mass for sharks ranging from 0·13 to 47·7 kg was 0·79; a similar value to previous estimates for resting metabolic rates in smaller fishes.
  4. We describe the operation and usefulness of this new method in the context of our current uncertainties surrounding energy requirements of large water-breathing animals. We also highlight the sensitivity of mass-extrapolated energetic estimates in large aquatic animals and discuss the consequences for predicting ecosystem impacts such as trophic cascades.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Keywords:allometry, field metabolic rate, daily energy expenditure, biomass, ectotherm, power curve, tuna, white shark, wind tunnel
Research Division:Agricultural, Veterinary and Food Sciences
Research Group:Fisheries sciences
Research Field:Fish physiology and genetics
Objective Division:Environmental Management
Objective Group:Marine systems and management
Objective Field:Marine biodiversity
UTAS Author:Semmens, JM (Professor Jayson Semmens)
ID Code:101195
Year Published:2015
Web of Science® Times Cited:26
Deposited By:IMAS Research and Education Centre
Deposited On:2015-06-11
Last Modified:2017-11-04

Repository Staff Only: item control page