Physiological telemetry is a powerful tool in studying the thermal biology and energetics of elasmobranchs in the laboratory and field. Controlled laboratory studies have increased our understanding of the physiology and behavior of many elasmobranchs, but have focused primarily on small, slow moving species. Extrapolating results from these laboratory studies to free-swimming animals in the field or to other unstudied species may be problematic, due to laboratory constraints or species specific differences. Some elasmobranchs are too large or logistically difficult to maintain in captivity, making them extremely difficult to study in the laboratory, and thus can only be studied in the field. Physiological telemetry offers a ‘bridge’ between the laboratory and the field providing an opportunity to elucidate similarities and differences. Previous studies have coupled a variety of sensors with ultrasonic transmitters to relay information on epaxial muscle and stomach temperatures of free-swimming lamnid sharks. Even though these studies indicate lamnids exhibit elevated body temperatures, the degree to which these sharks may control body temperature is still not fully understood. Telemetry of heart rate, swimming speed, muscle contraction rate, and tail beat frequency has been used to estimate energy consumption of free-swimming elasmobranchs with varying success. Based on recent advances in technology, several hypotheses regarding thermoregulation, cardiac output, and obligate ram ventilation are discussed. Although many telemetry studies have been restricted by logistical difficulties in conducting long-term tracks, recent developments such as acoustic modems, underwater listening stations and satellite telemetry may significantly increase the amount and types of physiological data that can be collected. These improvements in technology and captive animal husbandry techniques will help to ‘bridge the gap’ between the laboratory and the field.
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Lowe, C.G., Goldman, K.J. Thermal and Bioenergetics of Elasmobranchs: Bridging the Gap. Environmental Biology of Fishes 60, 251–266 (2001). https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1007650502269
- ultrasonic telemetry