Marine Biology

, 165:5 | Cite as

Linking rates of metabolism and growth in marine fish larvae

  • Marta MoyanoEmail author
  • Björn Illing
  • Lars Christiansen
  • Myron A. Peck
Original paper


The intricate relationship between metabolism and growth is still largely unexplored in early life stages of fish. In the present study, two experiments were conducted to explore how standard metabolic rate (SMR) of Atlantic herring (Clupea harengus) larvae was related to differences in body size, growth rate and feeding environment. In two of the three trials of the first experiment, larval SMR decreased (up to 37%) after larvae experienced 3 days of sub-optimal feeding conditions. Inter-individual differences in SMR and nutritional condition (RNA–DNA ratio) were unrelated. In a second experiment, inter-individual differences in SMR were not explained by differences in short-term (otolith marginal increment width) or long-term (size-at-age, otolith diameter-at-age) growth indicators in well (ad libitum) fed larvae. Nevertheless, a negative relationship between SMR and otolith core diameter (formed between hatching and first feeding) was observed. In well-fed larvae, the relationship between SMR, temperature (T, 5–15 °C) and dry mass (DM, 60–3000 µm, 10–24 mm body length) was equal to: SMR = 0.0528 (± 0.0047) * DM 0.8859 (± 0.0127) * e T * 0.1046 (± 0.0034) [mean (± SE), adj R 2 = 0.9302, n = 384]. This is the first study to report the effects of DM on SMR in Atlantic herring larvae over a wide range of T. The present results suggest that metabolic flexibility can exist, particularly when larvae experience contrasting feeding environments, which needs to be taken into account when evaluating factors affecting larval growth and survival in the sea.



The authors would like to thank Martina Wichmann, Johanna Thoms, Katrin Engler, Caroline Candebat, and Patricia Hüdepohl for help rearing the herring larvae, and Audrey Geffen for her help on the otolith analysis and useful comments on the manuscript. Also, thanks to the three anonymous reviewers whose comments helped to improve this manuscript. M.M. was supported by a postdoctoral fellowship from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation.

Compliance of ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors have no competing interests.

Ethical approval

All applicable international, national, and/or institutional guidelines for the care and use of animals were followed as described in the “Materials and methods” section.

Supplementary material

227_2017_3252_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (114 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (PDF 113 kb)
227_2017_3252_MOESM2_ESM.pdf (41 kb)
Supplementary material 2 (PDF 41 kb)


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© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of Hydrobiology and Fisheries ScienceUniversity of HamburgHamburgGermany
  2. 2.Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef StudiesJames Cook UniversityTownsvilleAustralia

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