<p>Standard metabolic rate is a major functional trait with large inter-individual variability in many groups of aquatic species. Here we present results of an experimental study to address variation in standard
metabolic rates, over different scales of organisation and environments, within a specific group of aquatic macroinvertebrates (i.e. gammarid amphipods) that represent the primary consumers in detritus food webs. The study was carried out using flow-through microrespirometric techniques on male specimens of three gammarid species from freshwater, transitional water and marine ecosystems. We examined individual metabolic rate variations at three scales: (1) at the individual level, during an 8 h period of daylight; (2) at the within-population level, along body-size and body-condition gradients; (3) at the interspecific level, across species occurring in the field in the
three different categories of aquatic ecosystems, from freshwater to marine. We show that standard metabolic rates vary significantly at all three scales examined, with the highest variation observed at the within-population level. Variation in individual standard metabolic rates during the daylight hours
was generally low (coefficient of variation, CV < 10%) and unrelated to time. The average within-population CV
ranged between 30.0% and 35.0 %, with body size representing a significant source of overall inter-individual variation in the three species and individual body condition exerting only a marginal influence. In all species, the
allometric equations were not as steep as would be expected from the 3/4 power law, with significant variation in mass-specific metabolic rates among populations. The population from the transitional water ecosystem had the highest mass-specific metabolic rates and the lowest within-population variation.
In the gammarid species studied here, body-size-independent variations in standard individual metabolic rates were higher than those explained by allometric body size scaling, and the costs of adaptation to short-term periodic variations in water salinity in the studied ecosystems also seemed to represent a major source of variation.</p>