Miki Jahn and Frank Seebacher
The energy used to move a given distance (cost of transport; CoT) varies significantly between individuals of the same species. A lower CoT allows animals to allocate more of their energy budget to growth and reproduction. A higher CoT may cause animals to adjust their movement across different environmental gradients to reduce energy allocated to movement. The aim of this project was to determine whether CoT is a repeatable trait within individuals, and to determine its physiological causes and ecological consequences. We found that CoT is a repeatable trait in zebrafish (Danio rerio). We rejected the hypothesis that mitochondrial efficiency (P/O ratios) predicted CoT. We also rejected the hypothesis that CoT is modulated by temperature acclimation, exercise training or their interaction, although CoT increased with increasing acute test temperature. There was a weak but significant negative correlation between CoT and dispersal, measured as the number of exploration decisions made by fish, and the distance travelled against the current in an artificial stream. However, CoT was not correlated with the voluntary speed of fish moving against the current. The implication of these results is that CoT reflects a fixed physiological phenotype of an individual, which is not plastic in response to persistent environmental changes. Consequently, individuals may have fundamentally different energy budgets as they move across environments, and may adjust movement patterns as a result of allocation trade-offs. It was surprising that mitochondrial efficiency did not explain differences in CoT, and our working hypothesis is that the energetics of muscle contraction and relaxation may determine CoT. The increase in CoT with increasing acute environmental temperature means that warming environments will increase the proportion of the energy budget allocated to locomotion unless individuals adjust their movement patterns.