This study is an attempt to gain an integrated understanding of the interactions between temperature, locomotion activity and metabolism in the European sea bass (Dicentrarchus labrax). To our knowledge this study is among the few that have investigated the influence of the seasonal changes in water temperature on swimming performance in fish. Using a Brett-type swim-tunnel respirometer the relationship between oxygen consumption and swimming speed was determined in fish acclimatised to 7, 11, 14, 18, 22, 26 and 30 degrees C. The corresponding maximum swimming speed (U(max)), optimal swimming speed (U(opt)), active (AMR) and standard (SMR) metabolic rates as well as aerobic metabolic scope (MS) were calculated. Using simple mathematical functions, these parameters were modelled as a function of water temperature and swimming speed. Both SMR and AMR were positively related to water temperature up to 24 degrees C. Above 24 degrees C SMR and AMR levelled off and MS tended to decrease. We found a tight relationship between AMR and U(max) and observed that raising the temperature increased AMR and increased swimming ability. However, although fish swam faster at high temperature, the net cost of transport (COT(net)) at a given speed was not influence by the elevation of the water temperature. Although U(opt) doubled between 7 degrees C and 30 degrees C (from 0.3 to 0.6 m s(-1)), metabolic rate at U(opt) represented a relatively constant fraction of the animal active metabolic rate (40-45%). A proposed model integrates the effects of water temperature on the interaction between metabolism and swimming performance. In particular the controlling effect of temperature on AMR is shown to be the key factor limiting maximal swimming speed of sea bass.
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