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ESR 51:227-232 (2023)  -  DOI:

Regionally endothermic traits in planktivorous basking sharks Cetorhinus maximus

Haley R. Dolton1,*, Andrew L. Jackson1, Robert Deaville2, Jackie Hall3, Graham Hall3, Gavin McManus4, Matthew W. Perkins2, Rebecca A. Rolfe1, Edward P. Snelling5, Jonathan D. R. Houghton6, David W. Sims7,8, Nicholas L. Payne1

1Department of Zoology, School of Natural Sciences, Trinity College Dublin, Dublin D02 PN40, Ireland
2Institute of Zoology, Zoological Society of London, Regent’s Park, London NW1 4RY, UK
3Manx Basking Shark Watch, Glenchass Farmhouse, Port St Mary IM9 5PJ, Isle of Man
4Trinity Biomedical Sciences Institute, Trinity College Dublin, Dublin D02 R590, Ireland
5Department of Anatomy and Physiology, and Centre for Veterinary Wildlife Research, Faculty of Veterinary Science, University of Pretoria, Onderstepoort 0028, South Africa
6School of Biological Sciences, Queen’s University Belfast, Belfast BT9 7DL, Northern Ireland
7Marine Biological Association, The Laboratory, Citadel Hill, Plymouth PL1 2PB, UK
8Ocean and Earth Science, National Oceanography Centre Southampton, University of Southampton, Southampton SO14 3ZH, UK
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Few fast-swimming apex fishes are classified as ‘regional endotherms’, having evolved a relatively uncommon suite of traits (e.g. elevated body temperatures, centralised red muscle, and thick-walled hearts) thought to facilitate a fast, predatory lifestyle. Unlike those apex predators, Endangered basking sharks Cetorhinus maximus are massive filter-feeding planktivores assumed to have the anatomy and physiology typical of fully ectothermic fishes. We combined dissections of stranded specimens with biologging of free-swimming individuals and found that basking sharks have red muscle located medially at the trunk, almost 50% compact myocardium of the ventricle, and subcutaneous white muscle temperatures consistently 1.0 to 1.5°C above ambient. Collectively, our findings suggest basking sharks are not full ectotherms, instead sharing several traits used to define a regional endotherm, thus deviating from our current understanding of the species and questioning the link between physiology and ecology of regionally endothermic shark species. With successful forecasting of population dynamics and distribution shifts often improved by accurate physiological data, our results may help explain movement patterns of the species, which could ultimately facilitate conservation efforts.

KEY WORDS: Regional endothermy · Ectotherm · Physiology · Anatomy · Biologging

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Cite this article as: Dolton HR, Jackson AL, Deaville R, Hall J and others (2023) Regionally endothermic traits in planktivorous basking sharks Cetorhinus maximus. Endang Species Res 51:227-232.

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