Research in a variety of vertebrate taxa has found that cardiac function is a major limiting factor in the ability of animals to cope with physiological challenges, and thus is suggested to play an important role in mediating fitness-related behaviors in the wild. Yet, there remains a paucity of empirical assessments of the relationships between physiological performance and biological fitness in wild animals, partially due to challenges in measuring these metrics remotely. Using male smallmouth bass (Micropterus dolomieu) as a model, we tested for relationships between cardiac performance (measured using heart rate biologgers) and fitness-related behaviors (assessed using videography and snorkeler observations) in the wild during the parental care period. Our results showed that heart rates were not significantly related to any measured parental care behaviors (e.g., nest tending) except for individual aggression level. After accounting for the effect of water temperature on heart rate, we found within-individual heart rate differed between days and also differed between nights. There was, however, evidence of diel variation in heart rate, where heart rate was higher during the day than at night. Although fitness is thought to be dependent on physiological capacity for exercise in wild animals, inter-individual variation in heart rate alone does not appear to relate to parental care behavior in smallmouth bass at the temporal scales examined here (i.e., hours to days). Further studies are required to confirm relationships between physiological performance and parental care behavior to elucidate the apparently complex relationships between physiology, behavior, and fitness in wild animals.

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Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology - A Molecular and Integrative Physiology
Department of Biology

Prystay, T.S. (Tanya S.), Lawrence, M.J. (Michael J.), Zolderdo, A.J. (Aaron J.), Brownscombe, J.W. (Jacob W.), de Bruijn, R. (Robert), Eliason, E.J. (Erika J.), & Cooke, S.J. (2019). Exploring relationships between cardiovascular activity and parental care behavior in nesting smallmouth bass: A field study using heart rate biologgers. Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology - A Molecular and Integrative Physiology, 234, 18–27. doi:10.1016/j.cbpa.2019.04.012