Polar Biology

, Volume 41, Issue 5, pp 897–908 | Cite as

Seasonality of oxygen consumption in five common Antarctic benthic marine invertebrates

  • Terri A. Souster
  • Simon A. Morley
  • Lloyd S. Peck
Original Paper


The waters of the Southern Ocean exhibit extreme seasonality in primary production, with marine life living below 0 °C for much of the year. The metabolic cold adaptation (MCA) hypothesis suggests that polar species need elevated basal metabolic rates to enable activity in such cold which should result in higher metabolic rates, or at least rates similar to temperate species. This study aimed to test whether any of the five common marine invertebrates around Adelaide Island (Western Antarctic Peninsula) displayed MCA: the suspension-feeding holothurian Heterocucumis steineni, the grazing limpet Nacella concinna, and the omnivorous brittle star, cushion star and sea-urchin Ophionotus victoriae, Odontaster validus and Sterechinus neumayeri, respectively. We also tested a second hypothesis that secondary consumers will exhibit less seasonal variation of metabolic rate than primary consumers. Routine oxygen consumption was measured in both the austral summer and winter using closed circuit respirometry techniques. Metabolic rates for all the species studied were low compared with temperate species, in a fashion consistent with expected temperature effects on biological systems and, therefore, the data do not support MCA. All the species studied showed significant seasonal differences for a standard mass animal except N. concinna. In two species N. concinna and H. steineni, size affected the seasonality of metabolism. There was no difference in seasonality of metabolism between primary and secondary consumers. Thus, for secondary consumers seasonal factors, most likely food availability and quality, vary enough to impact metabolic rates, and produce seasonal metabolic signals at all trophic levels. Other factors such as reproductive status that are linked to seasonal signals may also have contributed to the metabolic variation across trophic levels.


Metabolism Polar Benthos Secondary consumer Primary consumer MCA 



The authors would like to thank all members of the Rothera Research Station dive, boating and support teams from 2014 to 2016 for their help with collecting and maintaining animals. BAS diving is supported by the NERC National Facility for Scientific Diving at Oban. This project was funded by the Natural Environment Research Council. The authors confirm that sampling of all species and use of animals in experiments was in accordance with relevant guidelines and permits. Terri A Souster would particularly like to thank Jonathan Yates for help with animal sorting and in general for all his support and patience. Thanks to Melody Clark for critical reading of the manuscript. Thanks also to MAGIC for production of the map used in Fig. 1. The author would also like to acknowledge the anonymous referees who provided comments that led to a much improved manuscript.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

To the authors knowledge there is no conflict of interest in the production of this manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.British Antarctic Survey, Natural Environment Research CouncilCambridgeUK

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