Recent analyses of metabolic rates in fishes, echinoderms, crustaceans and cephalopods have concluded that bathymetric declines in temperature- and mass-normalized metabolic rate do not result from resource-limitation (e.g. oxygen or food/chemical energy), decreasing temperature or increasing hydrostatic pressure. Instead, based on contrasting bathymetric patterns reported in the metabolic rates of visual and nonvisual taxa, declining metabolic rate with depth is proposed to result from relaxation of selection for high locomotory capacity in visual predators as light diminishes. Here, we present metabolic rates of Holothuroidea, a non-visual benthic and benthopelagic echinoderm class, determined in situ at abyssal depths (greater than 4000m depth). Mean temperature- and mass-normalized metabolic rate did not differ significantly between shallow-water (less than 200m depth) and bathyal (200–4000m depth) holothurians, but was significantly lower in abyssal (greater than 4000m depth) holothurians than in shallow-water holothurians. These results support the dominance of the visual interactions hypothesis at bathyal depths, but indicate that ecological or evolutionary pressures other than biotic visual interactions contribute to bathymetric variation in holothurian metabolic rates. Multiple nonlinear regression assuming power or exponential models indicates that in situ hydrostatic pressure and/or food/chemical energy availability are responsible for variation in holothurian metabolic rates. Consequently, these results have implications for modelling deep-sea energetics and processes.
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