Environmental Biology of Fishes

, Volume 98, Issue 11, pp 2133–2146 | Cite as

Swimming energetics and thermal ecology of adult bonefish (Albula vulpes): a combined laboratory and field study in Eleuthera, The Bahamas

  • Liane B. NowellEmail author
  • Jacob W. Brownscombe
  • Lee F. G. Gutowsky
  • Karen J. Murchie
  • Cory D. Suski
  • Andy J. Danylchuk
  • Aaron Shultz
  • Steven J. Cooke


Knowledge of the swimming energetics and thermal ecology of sub-tropical and tropical coastal species is extremely limited, yet this information is critical for understanding animal–environment relationships in the face of climate change. Using the ecologically and economically important sportfish, bonefish (Albula vulpes), we determined the critical swimming speed (U crit), metabolic rates (\( \overset{\cdot }{\mathrm{M}}{\mathrm{O}}_{2 \max } \) and \( \overset{\cdot }{\mathrm{M}}{\mathrm{O}}_{2\mathrm{routine}} \)), scope for activity, and cost of transport (COTnet) across a range of temperatures using a swim tunnel. For both critical swimming speed and scope for activity, optimal (Topt) and critical (Tcrit) temperatures were determined. The optimal temperature for U crit (96 cm/s) was 28.0 °C and the optimal temperature for scope for activity (7.5 mgO2/min/kg) was 26.7 °C. We also estimated the thermal profile of bonefish in the wild using surgically implanted thermal loggers. Of the 138 implanted fish, eight were recaptured with functional loggers. After 220 days more than 55 % of recaptured tagged fish had expelled their thermal loggers. Thermal profiles revealed that bonefish did not exceed laboratory-determined critical temperatures (i.e., 14.5 °C minima and 37.9 °C maxima) and spent the majority of their time at their critical swimming speed optimal temperature. Nonetheless, fish experienced wide variation in daily temperature—both through time (up to 8 °C diel fluctuation and 14 °C seasonally) and among individuals. Collectively, laboratory and field data suggest that bonefish occupy habitats that approach, but rarely exceed (0.51 % of the time) their Tcrit. Bonefish routinely experienced water temperatures in the field that exceeded their Topt (~54 % of the time). Even minor increases in temperature (e.g., 1 °C) in tidal creeks will lead to greater exceedances of Topt and Tcrit or potentially reduce access of bonefish to essential feeding areas.


Bonefish Swimming Respirometry Temperature Biologger Scope for activity 



Funding for this project was generously provided by NSERC, the Canada Foundation for Innovation and Bonefish and Tarpon Trust. We thank Gabriel Blouin-Demers, William Willmore and Jeff Dawson for valuable input on this manuscript. We also thank the Cape Eleuthera Institute for use of their facilities and students from The Island School for their assistance with fish collection. Adam Fuller, Brittany Sims, Emma Samson, Eric Schneider, Felicia St. Louis, Gray Horwitz, Ian Rossiter, Kelly Hannan, Kylie Bloodsworth, Luke Griffin, Petra Szekeres, Stacey Dorman, Zach Zuckerman and Melissa Dick provided logistic support and expert field assistance. All research was conducted in accordance with the policies of the Canadian Council on Animal Care as administered by the Carleton University Animal Care Committee (Protocol B10-06).


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Liane B. Nowell
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Jacob W. Brownscombe
    • 1
  • Lee F. G. Gutowsky
    • 1
  • Karen J. Murchie
    • 3
  • Cory D. Suski
    • 2
    • 4
  • Andy J. Danylchuk
    • 5
  • Aaron Shultz
    • 2
  • Steven J. Cooke
    • 1
  1. 1.Fish Ecology and Conservation Physiology Laboratory, Department of BiologyCarleton UniversityOttawaCanada
  2. 2.Flats Ecology and Conservation ProgramCape Eleuthera InstituteEleutheraThe Bahamas
  3. 3.Department of BiologyCollege of The BahamasGrand BahamaThe Bahamas
  4. 4.Department of Natural Resources and Environmental SciencesUniversity of IllinoisUrbanaUSA
  5. 5.Department of Environmental ConservationUniversity of Massachusetts AmherstAmherstUSA

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