Field metabolic rate and prey consumption rate of the Greenland shark

Published on
06 April 2022

Life in the slow lane: field metabolic rate and prey consumption rate of the Greenland shark (Somniosus microcephalus) modelled using archival biologgers

Eric Ste-Marie, Yuuki Y. Watanabe, Jayson M. Semmens, Marianne Marcoux, Nigel E. Hussey


Field metabolic rate (FMR) is a holistic measure of metabolism representing the routine energy utilization of a species living within a specific ecological context, thus providing insight into its ecology, fitness and resilience to environmental stressors. For animals that cannot be easily observed in the wild, FMR can also be used in concert with dietary data to quantitatively assess their role as consumers, improving understanding of the trophic linkages that structure food webs and allowing for informed management decisions. Here, we modelled the FMR of Greenland sharks (Somniosus microcephalus) equipped with biologger packages or pop-up archival satellite tags (PSATs) in two coastal inlets of Baffin Island (Nunavut) using metabolic scaling relationships for mass, temperature and activity. We estimated that Greenland sharks had an overall mean (±s.d.) FMR of 21.67±2.30 mg O2 h−1 kg−0.84 (n=30; 1–4 day accelerometer package deployments) while residing inside these cold-water fjord systems in the late summer, and 25.48±0.47 mg O2 h−1 kg−0.84 (n=6; PSATs) over an entire year. When considering prey consumption rate, an average shark in these systems (224 kg) requires a maintenance ration of 61–193 g of fish or marine mammal prey daily. As Greenland sharks are a lethargic polar species, these low FMR estimates, and corresponding prey consumption estimates, suggest they require very little energy to sustain themselves under natural conditions. These data provide the first characterization of the energetics and consumer role of this vulnerable and understudied species in the wild, which is essential given growing pressures from climate change and expanding commercial fisheries in the Arctic.

J Exp Biol (2022) 225 (7): jeb242994. DOI: 10.1242/jeb.242994


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