UV radiation impacts body weight, oxygen consumption, and shelter selection in the intertidal vertebrate Girella laevifrons

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Science of The Total Environment

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The amount of ultraviolet (UV) radiation reaching the earth's surface has increased due to ozone layer depletion, and this fact represents an opportunity to evaluate the physiological and behavioral responses of animals to this global-scale stressor. The transitory fish Girella laevifrons inhabits pools in the upper intertidal zone, which is characterized by exposure to a wide range of stressors, including UV radiation. We documented the field magnitude and the impact of UV radiation on oxygen consumption, body mass variations, and shelter (rocky and algae) selection by G. laevifrons. UV-exposed animals showed increased oxygen consumption, slower body weight increase, and active rocky shelter selection. Control fish showed increased body weight and no evident shelter selection. The results indicated that UV exposure affects fish energetic balance and habitat selection to favor greater protection against radiation. Increased UV exposure in transitory intertidal animals at levels observed in upper intertidal pools may alter the residency time of fish before leaving for the subtidal zone. Therefore, UV-induced energetic changes may determine animal performance and ontogenetic physiological itineraries, whereas shelter quality might determine habitat use.