TUNA are unique among teleost fishes in being thermoconserving. Vascular counter-current heat exchangers maintain body temperatures above ambient water temperature, thereby improving locomotor muscle efficiency, especially at burst speeds and when pursuing prey below the thermocline1–6. Because tuna also occasionally swim rapidly in warm surface waters, it has been hypothesized that tuna thermoregulate to accommodate changing activity levels or ambient temperatures7. But previous field experiments have been unable to demonstrate definitively short-latency, mammalian-type physiological thermoregulation8,9. Here we show using telemetered data that free-ranging bigeye tuna (Thunnus obesus) can rapidly alter whole-body thermal conductivity by two orders of magnitude. The heat exchangers are disengaged to allow rapid warming as the tuna ascend from cold water into warmer surface waters, and are reactivated to conserve heat when they return into the depths. Combining physiological and behavioural thermoregulation expands the foraging space of bigeye tuna into otherwise prohibitively cold, deep water.
Subscribe to Journal
Get full journal access for 1 year
only $3.83 per issue
All prices are NET prices.
VAT will be added later in the checkout.
Rent or Buy article
Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.
All prices are NET prices.
Graham, J. B. & Diener, D. R. in The Physiological Ecology of Tunas (eds Sharp, G. D. & Dizon. A. E.) 113–134 (Academic, New York, 1978).
Carey, F. G. Sci. Am. 228, 36–44 (1973).
Graham, J. B. in Fish Biomechanics (eds Webb, P. W. & Weihs, D.) 248–279 (Praeger, New York, 1983).
Neill, W, H., Chang, R. K. C. & Dizon, A. E. Environ. Biol. Fish. 1, 61–80 (1976).
Graham, J. B. Fish. Bull. 73, 219–229 (1975).
Stevens, E. D. & Neill, W. H. in Fish Physiology VII (eds Hoar, W. S. & Randall, D. J.) 315–359 (Academic, New York, 1978).
Dizon, A. E. & Brill, R. W. Am. Zool 19, 249–265 (1979).
Carey, F. G., & Lawson, K. D. Comp. Biochem. Physiol. 44, 375–392 (1973).
Neill, W. S. & Stevens, E. D. Science 184, 1008–1010 (1974).
Graham, J. B. & Dickson, K. A. Physiol. Zool 54, 470–486 (1981).
Carey, F. G. in Planning the Future of Billfishes (ed. Stroud, R. H.) 103–122 (National Coalition Marine Conservation, Savannah, Georgia, 1990).
Carey, F. G. & Scharold, J. V. Mar. Biol. 106, 329–342 (1990).
Carey, F. G. & Gibson, Q. H. Physiol. Zool. 60, 138–148 (1987).
Holland, K. N., Brill, R. W. & Chang, R. K. C. Fish. Bull. 88, 493–507 (1990).
AUTODIF, a C + + Array Language Extension with Automatic Differentiation for Use in Non-linear Modelling and Statistics (Otter Research Ltd, Nanaimo, Canada, 1991).
Axelsson, M. & Nilsson, S. J. exp. Biol. 126, 225–233 (1986).
Stevens, E. D., Lam, H. M. & Kendall, J. J. exp. Biol. 61, 145–153 (1974).
Holland, K. N., Brill, R. W., Chang, R. K. C. & Yost, R. Mar. Fish. Rev. 47, 26–32 (1985).
Greiwank, A. & Corliss, G. F. (eds) Automatic Differentiation of Algorithms: Theory, Practice and Application (SIAM, Philadelphia, 1991).
Dizon, A. E., Byles, T. C. & Stevens, E. D. J. therm. Biol. 1, 185–187 (1976).
Steffel, S., Dizon, A. E., Magnuson, J. J. & Neill, W. H. Trans. Am. Fish. Soc. 105, 588–591 (1976).
About this article
Cite this article
Holland, K., Brill, R., Chang, R. et al. Physiological and behavioural thermoregulation in bigeye tuna (Thunnus obesus). Nature 358, 410–412 (1992). https://doi.org/10.1038/358410a0
Diel patterns in swimming behavior of a vertically migrating deepwater shark, the bluntnose sixgill (Hexanchus griseus)
PLOS ONE (2020)
Annual Review of Marine Science (2020)
Reviews in Fish Biology and Fisheries (2019)
Climate sensitivities and uncertainties in food-web pathways supporting larval bluefin tuna in subtropical oligotrophic oceans
ICES Journal of Marine Science (2019)