Vulnerability of individual fish to capture by trawling is influenced by capacity for anaerobic metabolism

Shaun S. Killen, Julie J.H. Nati, Cory D. Suski

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The harvest of animals by humans may constitute one of the strongest evolutionary forces affecting wild populations. Vulnerability to harvest varies among individuals within species according to behavioural phenotypes, but we lack fundamental information regarding the physiological mechanisms underlying harvest-induced selection. It is unknown, for example, what physiological traits make some individual fish more susceptible to capture by commercial fisheries. Active fishing methods such as trawling pursue fish during harvest attempts, causing fish to use both aerobic steady-state swimming and anaerobic burst-type swimming to evade capture. Using simulated trawling procedures with schools of wild minnows Phoxinus phoxinus, we investigate two key questions to the study of fisheries-induced evolution that have been impossible to address using large-scale trawls: (i) are some individuals within a fish shoal consistently more susceptible to capture by trawling than others?; and (ii) if so, is this related to individual differences in swimming performance and metabolism? Results provide the first evidence of repeatable variation in susceptibility to trawling that is strongly related to anaerobic capacity and swimming ability. Maximum aerobic swim speed was also negatively correlated with vulnerability to trawling. Standard metabolic rate was highest among fish that were least vulnerable to trawling, but this relationship probably arose through correlations with anaerobic capacity. These results indicate that vulnerability to trawling is linked to anaerobic swimming performance and metabolic demand, drawing parallels with factors influencing susceptibility to natural predators. Selection on these traits by fisheries could induce shifts in the fundamental physiological makeup and function of descendent populations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number20150603
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1813
StatePublished - Aug 5 2015


  • Aerobic scope
  • Anthropogenic selection
  • Conservation physiology
  • Fisheries-induced evolution
  • Metabolic rate

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Immunology and Microbiology(all)
  • Environmental Science(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)


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