Wild animals maximize fitness through certain behaviors (e.g., foraging, mating, predator avoidance) that incur metabolic costs and often require high levels of locomotor activity. Consequently, the ability of animals to achieve high fitness often relies on their physiological capacity for exercise (aerobic scope) and/or their ability to acquire and utilize energy judiciously. Here, we explore how environmental factors and physiological limitations influence exercise and metabolism in fish while foraging, migrating to spawning grounds, and providing parental care. We do so with three case studies that use a number of approaches to studying exercise in wild fish using biologging and biotelemetry platforms. Bonefish (Albula vulpes) selectively use shallow water tropical marine environments to forage when temperatures are near optimal for aerobic scope and exercise capacity. Bonefish energy expenditure at upper thermal extremes is maximal while activity levels diminish, likely caused by reduced aerobic scope. Pacific salmon (Oncorhynchus spp.) reproductive migrations frequently involve passage through hydraulically challenging areas, and their ability to successfully pass these regions is constrained by their physiological capacity for exercise. Aerobic scope and swim performance are correlated with migration difficulty among sockeye salmon (O. nerka) populations; however, depletion of endogenous energy stores can also limit migration success. In another example, male smallmouth bass (Micropterus dolomieu) allocate a significant amount of energy to nest-guarding behaviors to protect their developing brood. Smallmouth bass body size, endogenous energy reserves, and physiological state influence nest-guarding behaviors and reproductive success. We suggest that in some scenarios (e.g., bonefish foraging, Pacific salmon dam passage) metabolic capacity for exercise may be the strongest determinant of biological fitness, while in others (e.g., long distance salmon migration, smallmouth bass parental care) energy stores may be more important. Interactions among environmental and ecological factors, fish behavior, and fish physiology offer important avenues of mechanistic inquiry to explain ecological dynamics and demonstrate how exercise is fundamental to the ecology of fish.

Additional Metadata
Persistent URL dx.doi.org/10.1093/icb/icx012
Journal Integrative and Comparative Biology
Brownscombe, J.W. (Jacob W.), Cooke, S.J, Algera, D.A. (Dirk A.), Hanson, K.C. (Kyle C.), Eliason, E.J. (Erika J.), Burnett, N.J. (Nicholas J.), … Farrell, A.P. (Anthony P.). (2017). Ecology of exercise in wild fish: Integrating concepts of individual physiological capacity, behavior, and fitness through diverse case studies. In Integrative and Comparative Biology (Vol. 57, pp. 281–292). doi:10.1093/icb/icx012