Friday, May 1, 2009

Tuna on a Treadmill

Although we often focus on the work we do in the wild, tagging and tracking tunas in their migrations across the seas, there is also a massive research effort that goes on every day in our Tuna Research and Conservation Center here in Pacific Grove, CA -- a unique collaboration between Stanford University and the Monterey Bay Aquarium. For the past several weeks, we have been using a large apparatus called a "respirometer" to study the metabolic rate of tunas under different, controlled conditions. This work allows us to answer questions about how these animals work - how efficiently they swim at different speeds, and how they function at different temperatures.

video
Jake Nogueira from the Tuna Research and Conservation Center explains how the tuna respirometer works.

In our most recent experiment, we are studying tunas that have been outfitted with special tags that monitor their heart rate, and we have been observing their metabolic rate and internal temperature following feeding. When these data are combined, we hope to gain insights into the patterns we observe in tags on wild fish -- leading to a more complete understanding of how and when they feed in the wild, and how they use the energy from the food they eat. Ultimately, this will allow us to better understand how these apex predators fit into the broader open ocean ecosystem, and what resources they need to survive.

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