Co-adaptations Among Metabolic, Behavioural, and Performance Traits
All animals—from humans to fish—must convert food into the fuel they need to grow, reproduce and survive. But the rate at which they do so varies among species, populations and even from one individual to another. This process of channeling energy into useful functions is known as the metabolic rate.
Although metabolic rate is critical to our everyday lives, we know little about the evolutionary processes that have shaped it. As Canada Research Chair in Functional Ecology, Dr. Vincent Careau is trying to answer this question.
It is believed that metabolic rate varies as a result of co-adaptations with other ecologically relevant traits. Co-adaptation is a process in which traits interact to determine Darwinian fitness. In other words, it is possible that particular combinations of metabolic rate, performance, and behaviour may allow higher reproductive success. But until now, this possibility has remained largely untested.
Careau and his research team are using concepts, tools and techniques from different disciplines to study trait correlations within individuals, among individuals, among populations, and among species.
They hope their findings will lead to a better understanding of how metabolic rate and other ecologically relevant traits have evolved and shed light on the relationship between them.