Bioenergetic and limnological foundations for using degree-days derived from air temperatures to describe fish growth

Andrew E. Honsey, Paul A. Venturelli, Nigel P. Lester

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Degree-days (DD) are an effective metric for quantifying the thermal opportunity for ectotherm growth. There is strong empirical evidence to suggest that DD are useful for describing fish growth and that immature growth increases linearly with DD. However, fish ecology lags behind other disciplines in the widespread adoption of DD. We provide (1) a foundation for the observed linear relationship between immature fish growth and DD and (2) justification for using DD derived from air temperatures as a proxy for DD derived from water temperatures in fish science. We use bioenergetics models and both simulated and empirical water temperatures to show that immature annual and interannual fish growth are approximately linear with water DD. We then use simulated and empirical data to show that air and surface water temperatures are often highly correlated and that immature fish growth is also approximately linear with air DD. By connecting the dots among air temperature, water temperature, and fish growth, we lay the foundation for wider adoption of DD in fish science.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)657-669
Number of pages13
JournalCanadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jan 1 2019

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank Jacques Finlay, James Cotner, Przemek Bajer, and the members of the Venturelli lab for their helpful comments and suggestions. We also thank the handling editor and two anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments. Funding for A.E.H. was provided by a University of Minnesota Doctoral Dissertation Fellowship.

Publisher Copyright:
Copyright remains with the author(s) or their institution(s).


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