Ontogenetic phase shifts in metabolism: links to development and anti-predator adaptation

Mitsuharu Yagi, Takeshi Kanda, Tatsusuke Takeda, Atsushi Ishimatsu, Shin Oikawa

Abstract

The allometric relationships between resting metabolism (VO2) and body mass (M), VO2 = aiMb, are considered a fundamental law of nature. A distinction though needs to be made between the ontogeny (within a species) and phylogeny (among species) of metabolism. However, the nature and significance of the intraspecific allometry (ontogeny of metabolism) have not been established in fishes. In this study, we present experimental evidence that a puffer fish ranging 0.0008–3 g in wet body mass has four distinct allometric phases in which three stepwise increases in scaling constants (ai, i = 1–4), i.e. ontogenetic phase shifts in metabolism, occur with growth during its early life stages at around 0.002, 0.01 and 0.1 g, keeping each scaling exponent constant in each phase (b = 0.795). Three stepwise increases in ai accompanied behavioural and morphological changes and three peaks of severe cannibalism, in which the majority of predation occurred on smaller fish that had a lower value of ai. Though fishes are generally highly fecund, producing a large number of small eggs, their survivability is very low. These results suggest that individuals with the ability to rapidly grow and step up ‘ai’ develop more anti-predator adaptation as a result of the decreased predatory risk.

Footnotes

    • Received March 19, 2010.
    • Accepted April 15, 2010.
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