Fish That Increase Their Body Temperature Swim Faster

Written by on May 15, 2015 in Fish, Marine Life
Atlantic bluefin tuna. Photo credit: NOAA.

Atlantic bluefin tuna. Photo credit: NOAA.

Some species of fish have the ability to raise their internal temperatures so that they become warmer than the water surrounding them. This ability, called endothermy, is possible because of a closely knit web of veins and arteries. New research shows that these endothermic species (including some sharks and tunas) are able to swim faster and farther than species without this ability.

An international team of scientists studied several species and determined that those who have the ability to warm their core can swim two and a half times faster and almost twice as far as those who can’t change their body temperature.

The white shark, for example, has a migration range greater than that of the humpback whale – a species known for its long migrations.

“The cost of moving faster and farther is high so there has to be an ecological reason that outweighs the physiological expenditure,” UC Santa Barbara research biologist Jenn Caselle said in a news release. “These endothermic fishes are putting a lot more energy into each unit of movement than their cold-blooded counterparts are.”

Great white shark.

Great white shark. Photo credit: Michael Heilemann via photopin cc.

Caselle explained that while the cost of movement is higher, it’s definitely worth it.

“We hypothesize these gains allow these endotherms to be more efficient hunters and to span larger areas in their migration, which probably provides feeding and reproduction benefits.”

For example, the scientists speculate that by swimming long distances in a shorter amount of time, the fishes are able to take advantage of seasonally variable food sources.

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Copyright © 2015 by Marine Science Today, a publication of Marine Science Today LLC.

About the Author

About the Author: Emily Tripp is the Publisher and Editor of She holds marine science and biology degrees from the University of Miami's Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science and a Master of Advanced Studies degree in Marine Biodiversity and Conservation from Scripps Institution of Oceanography. When she's not writing about marine science, she's probably running around outside or playing with her dog. .


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