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Mechanisms of temperature-dependent swimming: the importance of physics, physiology and body size in determining protist swimming speed


Beveridge, Oliver S; Petchey, Owen L; Humphries, Stuart (2010). Mechanisms of temperature-dependent swimming: the importance of physics, physiology and body size in determining protist swimming speed. Journal of Experimental Biology, 213(24):4223-4231.

Abstract

Body temperatures and thus physiological rates of poikilothermic organisms are determined by environmental temperature. The
power an organism has available for swimming is largely dependent on physiological rates and thus body temperature. However,
retarding forces such as drag are contingent on the temperature-dependent physical properties of water and on an organism’s
size. Consequently, the swimming ability of poikilotherms is highly temperature dependent. The importance of the temperaturedependent
physical properties of water (e.g. viscosity) in determining swimming speed is poorly understood. Here we propose a
semi-mechanistic model to describe how biological rates, size and the physics of the environment contribute to the temperature
dependency of microbial swimming speed. Data on the swimming speed and size of a predatory protist and its protist prey were
collected and used to test our model. Data were collected by manipulating both the temperature and the viscosity (independently
of temperature) of the organism’s environment. Protists were either cultured in their test environment (for several generations) or
rapidly exposed to their test environment to assess their ability to adapt or acclimate to treatments. Both biological rates and the
physics of the environment were predicted to and observed to contribute to the swimming speed of protists. Body size was not
temperature dependent, and protists expressed some ability to acclimate to changes in either temperature or viscosity. Overall,
using our parameter estimates and novel model, we are able to suggest that 30 to 40% (depending on species) of the response in
swimming speed associated with a reduction in temperature from 20 to 5°C is due to viscosity. Because encounter rates between
protist predators and their prey are determined by swimming speed, temperature- and viscosity-dependent swimming speeds are
likely to result in temperature- and viscosity-dependent trophic interactions.

Abstract

Body temperatures and thus physiological rates of poikilothermic organisms are determined by environmental temperature. The
power an organism has available for swimming is largely dependent on physiological rates and thus body temperature. However,
retarding forces such as drag are contingent on the temperature-dependent physical properties of water and on an organism’s
size. Consequently, the swimming ability of poikilotherms is highly temperature dependent. The importance of the temperaturedependent
physical properties of water (e.g. viscosity) in determining swimming speed is poorly understood. Here we propose a
semi-mechanistic model to describe how biological rates, size and the physics of the environment contribute to the temperature
dependency of microbial swimming speed. Data on the swimming speed and size of a predatory protist and its protist prey were
collected and used to test our model. Data were collected by manipulating both the temperature and the viscosity (independently
of temperature) of the organism’s environment. Protists were either cultured in their test environment (for several generations) or
rapidly exposed to their test environment to assess their ability to adapt or acclimate to treatments. Both biological rates and the
physics of the environment were predicted to and observed to contribute to the swimming speed of protists. Body size was not
temperature dependent, and protists expressed some ability to acclimate to changes in either temperature or viscosity. Overall,
using our parameter estimates and novel model, we are able to suggest that 30 to 40% (depending on species) of the response in
swimming speed associated with a reduction in temperature from 20 to 5°C is due to viscosity. Because encounter rates between
protist predators and their prey are determined by swimming speed, temperature- and viscosity-dependent swimming speeds are
likely to result in temperature- and viscosity-dependent trophic interactions.

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10 citations in Web of Science®
9 citations in Scopus®
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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, not refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:07 Faculty of Science > Institute of Evolutionary Biology and Environmental Studies
Dewey Decimal Classification:570 Life sciences; biology
590 Animals (Zoology)
Uncontrolled Keywords:Colpidium striatum, Didinium nasutum, temperature, viscosity, swimming speed
Language:English
Date:2010
Deposited On:07 May 2012 15:41
Last Modified:05 Apr 2016 15:45
Publisher:Company of Biologists
ISSN:0022-0949
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1242/jeb.045435

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