Diego Bernal


Diego Bernal


Ph.D. 2002. Scripps Institute of Oceanography, University of CA

Email: dbernal@umassd.edu
Phone: 508-999-8307 

Office: Violette Research Building, Room 116

My research interests focus on fish biology, more specifically, the comparative physiology of fishes. I am particularly interested in the comparison of the morphological, physiological, and biochemical specializations of high-performance fishes (i.e., tunas, billfishes, and lamnid sharks). I am interested in understanding the progression of character-state acquisition leading to the suite of specializations present in these derived high-performance marine fishes and addressing questions on the biological mechanisms that distinguish high-performance fishes from all other fishes.

I am also interested in how fishes respond to angling-induced stress. Specifically, the disruption to homeostasis in fishes (i.e., tunas, billfishes and lamnid sharks) that undergo intensive bouts of burst swimming. Of particular interest is the application of new molecular techniques to determine the presence of chaperone protein expression in the red blood cells, locomotor and myocardial tissues. In summary, I am interested in questions that involve the physiological specializations present in the most active species of fishes, and what the energetic costs and advantages may be for maintaining the adaptations supporting high-performance swimming and for dealing with angling-induced stress.




 Recent Publications | Graduate Students |  Courses

Current Projects

Muscle performance studies in thresher sharks, stress response in captured sharks, pelagic fish cardiac performance, thermal ecology of swordfish, movement patterns of rooster fish. His work examines muscle physiology; cardiac performance; thermal ecology; movement patterns; molecular responses to stress.

Location of projects

Massachusetts, California, Hawaii, Costa Rica


Book Chapters

Bernal, D., and Lowe, C., 2016. Field studies of elasmobranch physiology. Physiology of Elasmobranch Fishes: Structure and Interaction with Environment: Fish Physiology, vol 34A, (Eds. R.E. Shadwick, A.P. Farrell, C.J. Brauner).  Elsevier. pp.311-377.

Bernal D., Carlson, J., Goldman K., and Lowe, C. (2012). Energetics, Metabolism, and Endothermy in Sharks and Rays, Chapter 7: In Volume 1. The Biology of sharks an their relatives. Physiological Adaptations, Behavior, Ecology, Conservation and Management of Sharks and Their Relatives. 2nd edition (Eds. J. C. Carrier J. A. Musick and M. R. Heithaus). CRC Press. pp 211-237.

Bernal, D. (2011). Pelagic Fishes. Chapter 112 In Encyclopedia of Fish Physiology.  (Eds. Cech, J., Farrell, A.). Elsevier Publishers.

Skomal, G. and Bernal, D. (2010). Physiological Responses to Stress in Sharks. In  Volume 2. The Biology of sharks an their relatives. Physiological Adaptations, Behavior, Ecology, Conservation and Management of Sharks and Their Relatives. (Eds. J. C. Carrier J. A. Musick and M. R. Heithaus). CRC Press. pp 457-488.

Bernal, D., Sepulveda, C., Musyl, M. and Brill, R. (2009). The eco-physiology of swimming and movement patterns of tunas, billfishes, and large pelagic sharks. Chapter 14. In Fish Locomotion - an etho-ecological perspective. (Eds. Domenici, P. Kapoor, D.) Science Publishers. pp 436-483.

Journal Articles

Bernal, D., Reid, J.P., Roessig, J.M., Matsumoto, S., Sepulveda, C.A., Cech, J.J Jr., and Graham, J.B. (in press). Temperature effects on the blood oxygen affinity in sharks. Fish Physiology and Biochemistry.

Bernal, D., Brill, R.W., Dickson, K.A., and Shiels, H.A. (2017). Sharing the water column: physiological mechanisms underlying species-specific habitat use in tunas. Reviews in Fish Biology and Fisheries, 27: 843-880.

*Stoehr, A., *St Martin, J., Aalbers, S., Sepulveda, C., & Bernal, D. (2017). Free-swimming swordfish, Xiphias gladius, alter the rate of whole body heat transfer: morphological and physiological specializations for thermoregulation. ICES Journal of Marine Science.  https://doi.org/10.1093/icesjms/fsx163

*Lynch, S.D., Marcek, B.J., Marshall, H.M., Bushnell, P.G., Bernal, D and Brill, R.W. (2017). The effects of pop-up satellite archival tags (PSATs) on the metabolic rate and swimming kinematics of juvenile sandbar shark (Carcharhinus plumbeus). Fisheries Research. 18:205-215.

*Eddy, C., Pitt, J., Morris, J., Smith, S., Goodbody-Gringley, G. and Bernal, D. (2016). Diet and prey selectivity of invasive lionfish (Pterois volitans and P. miles) in Bermuda. Marine Ecology Progress Series. 558:192-206.

*Eddy, C., Brill, R. and Bernal, D. (2016). Capture-related mortality and post release survival of pelagic sharks interacting with tuna purse seines around drifting fish aggregating devices (FADs) in the Eastern Pacific Ocean. Fisheries Research. 174:109-117.

*Marshall, H., Skomal, G., Ross, P.G. and Bernal, D. (2015). At-vessel and post-release mortality in dusky (Carcharhinus obscurus) and sandbar (C. plumbeus) sharks after longline capture. Fisheries Research. 172:373-384.

Sepulveda, C., Heberer, C., Aalbers, S.A., Spear, N., Kinney, M., Bernal, D. and Kohin, S. (2015). Post-release survivorship studies on common thresher sharks (Alopias vulpinus) captured in the southern California recreational fishery. Fisheries Research. 161:102–108.

Sepulveda, C., Aalbers, S.A. and Bernal., D. (2015) . Insights into post-release survival and movements of roosterfish (Nematistius pectoralis) off the Central American coastline. Latin American Journal of Aquatic Research. 43, 162-175.

*Kneebone, J., Chisholm, J., Bernal, D. and Skomal, G. (2013). The physiological effects of capture stress, recovery, and post-release survivorship of juvenile sand tigers (Carcharias taurus) caught on rod and reel. Fisheries Research 147: 103-114

*Marshall, H., *Field, L. *Afiadata, A., Sepulveda, C., Skomal, G. and Bernal, D. (2012). Haematological indicators of stress in longline-captured sharks Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology. 126:121-129.

Donley, J.M, Sepulveda, C.A., Aalbers, S.A., McGillivray, D.G., Syme, D.A. and Bernal, D. (2012) Effects of temperature on power output and contraction kinetics in the locomotor muscle of the regionally endothermic common thresher shark (Alopias vulpinus). Fish Biochemistry and Physiology. 38:1507-1519.

*Patterson, J., Sepulveda, C. and Bernal, D. (2011). The vascular morphology and in vivo muscle temperatures of thresher sharks (Alopiidae). Journal of Morphology. 272:1353-1364.

Heberer, C., Aalbers, S.A., Bernal, D., Kohin, S., DiFiore, B. and Sepulveda, C.A. (2010) Insights into catch and release mortality, vertical distribution, and blood biochemistry of common thresher sharks (Alopias vulpinus) captured in the southern California recreational fishery.  Fisheries Research. 106:495-500.

Sepulveda, C.A., Aalbers, S.A., Ortega-Garcia, S., Wegner, N. and Bernal, D. (2011) Depth distribution and temperature preferences of wahoo (Acanthocybium solandri) off Baja California Sur, Mexico. Marine Biology. 158:917-926

Aalbers. S, Bernal, D., and Sepulveda C. (2010). The functional role of the caudal fin in the feeding ecology of the common thresher shark (Alopias vulpinus). J. Fish Biology. 76, 1863–1868

Bernal, D., Donley, J., McGillivray, D.G., Aalbers, S.A., Syme, D.A., and Sepulveda, C. (2010). Function of the medial red muscle during sustained swimming in common thresher sharks: Contrast and convergence with thunniform swimmers. Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology A. 155, 454-463.

Sepulveda, C. A., Dickson, K.A., Bernal, D. and Graham, J. B. (2008). Elevated red myotomal muscle temperatures in the most basal tuna species, Allothunnus fallaiJ. Fish Biol. 73: 241-249.

Sepulveda, C.A., Graham, J.B., and Bernal, D. (2007). Aerobic metabolic rates of swimming mako sharks, Isurus oxyrinchus. Mar. Bio. 152: 1087-1094.

*Hight, B.V., Holts, D., Graham, J.B., Kennedy, B.P., Taylor, V., Sepulveda, C.A., Bernal, D., Ramon, D., Rasmussen, R, and Lai, Chin, L. (2007). Plasma catecholamine levels as indicators of the post-release survivorship of juvenile pelagic sharks caught on experimental drift longlines in the Southern California Bight. Mar. Fresh. Res. 58, 145-151.

*Perry, C.N., Cartamil, D.P., Bernal, D., Sepulveda, C.A., Theilmann, R.J., Graham, J.B., and Frank, L.R. (2007) Quantification of red myotomal muscle volume and geometry in the shortfin mako shark (Isurus oxyrinchus) and the salmon shark (Lamna ditropis) using T1-weighted magnetic resonance imaging.  J. Morph. 266: 284-292.

Bernal, D. Donley, J.M., Shadwick, R.E. and Syme, D.A. (2005). Mammal-like muscles power swimming in a cold-water shark, Nature 437, 1349-1352.

Sepulveda, C.A., Wegner, N.C., Bernal, D. and Graham, J.B. (2005). The red muscle morphology of the thresher sharks (family Alopiidae). J. Exp. Biol. 208, 4255-4261.

Bernal, D. and Sepulveda, C. (2005). Evidence for temperature elevation in the aerobic swimming musculature of the Common thresher shark, A. vulpinus. Copeia 2005, 146-151.

Bernal, D., Smith, D., Lopez, G., Weitz, D., Grimminger, T., A., Dickson. K.A. and Graham, J. B. (2003). Comparative studies of high performance swimming in sharks. II.  Metabolic biochemistry of locomotor and myocardial muscle in endothermic and ectothermic sharks. J. Exp. Biol. 206, 2845-2857

Bernal, D., Sepulveda, C., Mathieu-Costello, O. and Graham, J. B. (2003). Comparative studies of high performance swimming in sharks: I. Red muscle morphometrics, vascularization, and ultrastructure. J. Exp. Biol.206, 2831-2843.

Bernal, D., Dickson K. A., Shadwick R. E. & Graham J. B. (2001). Analysis of the evolutionary convergence for high-performance swimming in lamnid sharks and tunas. Comp. Biochem. Physiol. 179:695-726.

Bernal, D. Sepulveda, C. & Graham, J. B. (2001). Water tunnel studies of heat balance in swimming mako sharks. J. Exp. Biol. 204:4043-4054.

Bernal D, Dickson, K.A. & Graham J.B (2001).  Convergence for high-performance swimming in lamnid sharks and tunas. Thermoregulation and metabolic biochemistry. Amer. Zool. 40:942-943.


Recent Graduate Students

  • Heather Marshall. Metabolic biochemistry in shark hearts. Habitat utilization of the porbeagle shark (L. nasus) in the northwestern Atlantic.
  • Lindsay Field. The biochemical and molecular responses to capture-related stress in sharks.
  • James Patterson. Locomotor muscle biochemistry in the thresher sharks.
  • Jeffrey Kneebone. Movement patterns of sand tiger sharks off the coast of New England.
  • William Eddy and Tobey Curtis. New students.


Courses Professor Bernal has taught include:

  • BIO 103. Topics in Biology: Animal Biology (Lecture)
  • BIO 131. Biology of Organisms I (Laboratory)
  • BIO 370. Animal Physiology (Lecture and Laboratory)
  • BIO 454/554. Biology of Sharks (Lecture)
  • BIO 540. Environmental Physiology of Marine Organisms (Lecture and Laboratory)
  • BIO 525. Graduate Student Seminar (Lecture)
  • BIO 599. Graduate Thesis
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