Influences of thermal environment on fish growth
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Thermoregulation in ectothermic animals is influenced by the ability to effectively respond to thermal variations. While it is known that ectotherms are affected by thermal changes, it remains unknown whether physiological and/or metabolic traits are impacted by modifications to the thermal environment. Our research provides key evidence that fish ectotherms are highly influenced by thermal variability during development, which leads to important modifications at several metabolic levels (e.g., growth trajectories, microstructural alterations, muscle injuries, and molecular mechanisms). In Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar), a wide thermal range (ΔT 6.4°C) during development (posthatch larvae to juveniles) was associated with increases in key thermal performance measures for survival and growth trajectory. Other metabolic traits were also significantly influenced, such as size, muscle cellularity, and molecular growth regulators possibly affected by adaptive processes. In contrast, a restricted thermal range (ΔT 1.4°C) was detrimental to growth, survival, and cellular microstructure as muscle growth could not keep pace with increased metabolic demands. These findings provide a possible basic explanation for the effects of thermal environment during growth. In conclusion, our results highlight the key role of thermal range amplitude on survival and on interactions with major metabolism-regulating processes that have positive adaptive effects for organisms.