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MEPS prepress abstract   -  DOI:

Environmental, evolutionary, and ecological drivers of slow growth in deep-sea demersal teleosts

Jesse A. Black*, Anna B. Neuheimer, Peter L. Horn, Di M. Tracey, Jeffrey C. Drazen

*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: The deep sea (>500m ocean depth) is the largest global habitat, characterized by cool temperatures, low ambient light, and food-poor conditions relative to shallower waters. Deep-sea teleosts generally grow more slowly than those inhabiting shallow-water. This is however a generalization, and even amongst deep-sea teleosts, there is a broad continuum of growth rates. The importance of potential drivers of growth-rate variability amongst deep-sea species, such as temperature, food availability, oxygen concentration, metabolic rate, and phylogeny, have yet to be fully evaluated. We present a meta-analysis in which age and size data were collected for 53 species of teleosts whose collective depth ranges span from surface waters to 4000m. We calculated growth metrics using both calendar and thermal age, and compared them with environmental, ecological, and phylogenetic variables. Temperature alone explains up to 30% of variation in the von Bertalanffy growth coefficient, K (yr-1), and 21% of the variation in the average annual increase in mass (AIM, %), a metric of growth prior to maturity. After correcting for temperature effects, depth was still a significant driver of growth, explaining up to 20% and 10% of the remaining variation in K and AIM, respectively. Oxygen concentration also explained ~11% of remaining variation in AIM following temperature-correction. Relatively minor amounts of variation may be explained by food availability, phylogeny, and the locomotory mode of the teleosts. We also found strong correlation between growth and metabolic rate, which may be an underlying driver also related to temperature, depth and other factors or the two parameters may simply covary as a result of being linked by evolutionary pressures. Evaluating the influence of ecological and/or environmental drivers of growth is a vital step in understanding the both the evolution of life history parameters across the depth continuum, as well as their implications for species’ resilience to increasing anthropogenic stressors.