Geographical and taxonomic patterns in aerobic traits of marine ectotherms

Justin L. Penn, Curtis Deutsch

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


The metabolism and hypoxia tolerance of marine ectotherms play key roles in limiting species geographical ranges, but underlying traits have only been directly measured for a small fraction of biodiversity. Here we diagnose and analyse spatial and phylogenetic patterns in hypoxia tolerance and its temperature sensitivity at ecologically active metabolic rates, by combining a model of organismal oxygen (O 2) balance with global climate and biogeographic data for approximately 25 000 animal species from 13 phyla. Large-scale spatial trait patterns reveal that active hypoxia tolerance is greater and less temperature sensitive among tropical species compared to polar ones, consistent with sparse experimental data. Species energetic demands for activity vary less with temperature than resting costs, an inference confirmed by available rate measurements. Across the tree of life, closely related species share similar hypoxia traits, indicating that evolutionary history shapes physiological tolerances to O 2 and temperature. Trait frequencies are highly conserved across phyla, suggesting the breadth of global aerobic conditions selects for convergent trait diversity. Our results support aerobic limitation as a constraint on marine habitat distributions and their responses to climate change and highlight the under-sampling of aerobic traits among species living in the ocean's tropical and polar oxythermal extremes. This article is part of the theme issue 'The evolutionary significance of variation in metabolic rates'.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number20220487
JournalPhilosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1896
StatePublished - Feb 26 2024

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences


  • biogeography
  • climate change
  • ecophysiology
  • hypoxia tolerance
  • marine ectotherms
  • metabolism


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