Research Publication

Diel rhythm and thermal independence of metabolic rate in a benthic shark

By Carolyn R. Wheeler, Jeff Kneebone, Dennis Heinrich, Jan M. Strugnell, John W. Mandelman, and Jodie L. Rummer

Originally published in Journal of Biological Rhythms in July 2022



Biological rhythms that are mediated by exogenous factors, such as light and temperature, drive the physiology of organisms and affect processes ranging from cellular to population levels. For elasmobranchs (i.e. sharks, rays, and skates), studies documenting diel activity and movement patterns indicate that many species are crepuscular or nocturnal in nature. However, few studies have investigated the rhythmicity of elasmobranch physiology to understand the mechanisms underpinning these distinct patterns. Here, we assess diel patterns of metabolic rates in a small meso-predator, the epaulette shark (Hemiscyllium ocellatum), across ecologically relevant temperatures and upon acutely removing photoperiod cues. This species possibly demonstrates behavioral sleep during daytime hours, which is supported herein by low metabolic rates during the day and a 1.7-fold increase in metabolic rates at night. From spring to summer seasons, where average average water temperature temperatures for this species range 24.5 to 28.5 °C, time of day, and not temperature, had the strongest influence on metabolic rate. These results indicate that this species, and perhaps other similar species from tropical and coastal environments, may have physiological mechanisms in place to maintain metabolic rate on a seasonal time scale regardless of temperature fluctuations that are relevant to their native habitats.

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Affiliated Authors
  • Jeff Kneebone

    Jeff Kneebone, PhD, Senior Scientist, Fisheries Science and Emerging Technologies Program, Anderson Cabot Center for Ocean Life

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  • expert

    John Mandelman, PhD, Vice President and Chief Scientist, Anderson Cabot Center for Ocean Life

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