An appetite for invasion: digestive physiology, thermal performance and food intake in lionfish (Pterois spp.).
Species invasions threaten global biodiversity, and physiological characteristics may determine their impact. Specific dynamic action (SDA; the increase in metabolic rate associated with feeding and digestion) is one such characteristic, strongly influencing an animal's energy budget and feeding ecology. We investigated the relationship between SDA, scope for activity, metabolic phenotype, temperature and feeding frequency in lionfish (Pterois spp.), which are invasive to western Atlantic marine ecosystems. Intermittent-flow respirometry was used to determine SDA, scope for activity and metabolic phenotype at 26°C and 32°C. Maximum metabolic rate occurred during digestion, as opposed to exhaustive exercise, as in more athletic species. SDA and its duration (SDAdur) were 30% and 45% lower at 32°C than at 26°C, respectively, and lionfish ate 42% more at 32°C. Despite a 32% decline in scope for activity from 26°C to 32°C, aerobic scope may have increased by 24%, as there was a higher range between standard metabolic rate (SMR) and peak SDA (SDApeak; the maximum postprandial metabolic rate). Individuals with high SMR and low scope for activity phenotypes had a less costly SDA and shorter SDAdur but a higher SDApeak. Feeding frequently had a lower and more consistent cost than consuming a single meal, but increased SDApeak. These findings demonstrate that: (1) lionfish are robust physiological performers in terms of SDA and possibly aerobic scope at temperatures approaching their thermal maximum, (2) lionfish may consume more prey as oceans warm with climate change, and (3) metabolic phenotype and feeding frequency may be important mediators of feeding ecology in fish.