, Volume 75, Issue 3, pp 259-267

Effects of Parturition and Feeding on Thermal Preference of Atlantic Stingray, Dasyatis sabina (Lesueur)

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Temperature is the most important and least well documented environmental entity affecting reproduction and feeding of elasmobranch fishes, but it is unclear to what extent these fish may exploit behavioral thermoregulation to optimize physiological processes. Laboratory thermal preference determinations are important to understanding behavioral processes because they provide the vital quantitative link between environment, physiology, and adaptive behavior. Temperature preference data were collected on Atlantic stingrays, Dasyatis sabina (Lesueur) to assess the fishs’ ability to behaviorally optimize feeding and reproduction. Groups of male and pregnant female Atlantic stingrays exhibited statistically higher preferred median temperatures (26.2 and 26.1°C, respectively) than non-pregnant females (25.3°C; One-Way ANOVA on ranked data, F [2,26] = 3.72, p=0.038). Median preferred temperatures in unfed stingrays of both genders ranged from 24.5 to 31.0°C, whereas, fed fish preferred temperatures between 23.5 and 27.5°C. Unfed stingrays preferred a median temperature of 24.5°C; however, after feeding fish preferred significantly warmer water temperatures of 25.7°C (Wilcoxon one-tail, matched-pairs, signed rank analysis; p<0.088). While overall differences were subtle, small preference adjustments can have important physiological consequences. For example, the 1°C increase seen in pregnant females over non-pregnant fish would reduce gestation time by as much as two weeks. Likewise, by moving to cooler water after feeding, stingrays may increase nutrient uptake efficiency by reducing evacuation rates. Our data indicate that movement and distribution of Atlantic stingrays are dictated, in part, by temperature effects on physiology.