Several studies have documented ecological effects on intra- and interspecific body-size scaling of metabolic rate. However, little is known about how various ecological factors may affect the scaling of respiratory structures supporting oxygen uptake for metabolism. Our study is apparently the first to provide evidence for ecological effects on the scaling of a respiratory structure among conspecific populations of any animal. We compared the body-mass scaling of gill surface area (SA) among eight spring-dwelling populations of the amphipod crustacean Gammarus minus. Although gill SA scaling was not related to water temperature, conductivity or G. minus population density, it was significantly related to predation regime (and secondarily to pH). Body-mass scaling slopes for gill SA were significantly lower in four populations inhabiting springs with fish predators than for those in four springs without fish (based on comparing means of the population slopes, or slopes calculated from pooled raw data for each comparison group). As a result, gill SA was proportionately smaller in adult amphipods from fish vs. fishless springs. This scaling difference paralleled similar differences in the scaling exponents for the rates of growth and resting metabolic rate. We hypothesized that gill SA scaling is shallower in fish vs. fishless spring populations of G. minus because of effects of size-selective predation on size-specific growth and activity that in turn affect the scaling of oxygen demand and concomitantly the gill capacity (SA) for oxygen uptake. Although influential theory claims that metabolic scaling is constrained by internal body design, our study builds on previous work to show that the scaling of both metabolism and the respiratory structures supporting it may be ecologically sensitive and evolutionarily malleable.
- Received December 21, 2016.
- Accepted March 24, 2017.
- © 2017. Published by The Company of Biologists Ltd