Oxygen consumption and ammonia excretion rates were assessed for Terebratulina retusa (L.) held under 3 different regimes of temperature and food availability. These were: 5.6ˆC, no food (cold, starved); 5.8ˆC, food present (cold, fed) and 10.7ˆC food present (warm, fed), which simulated winter conditions, summer conditions and an intermediate treatment. Regressions of oxygen consumption on ash‐free dry weight (AFDW) had slopes which were not significantly different from each other and ranged from 0.953 to 0.999. A common slope of 0.976 was calculated and intercepts based on the common slope used to compare oxygen consumption in each treatment. The rise from cold, starved conditions to warm, fed was 24.5 per cent and this was significant (P 0.05) but the cold, fed result was 12.6 per cent higher than cold, starved. Therefore feeding and temperature probably account for equivalent proportions of the rise in metabolism from winter to summer. Ammonia production data were much more variable. Excretion rates of a 50 mg AFDW individual (in ng‐at NH3‐N.h‐1) were as follows: cold, starved: 30.2 cold, fed: 7.1; and warm, fed: 22.9. Oxygen to nitrogen (O:N) ratios reflected these results. Mean O:N ratios were: cold, starved: 8.0; cold, fed: 42.4; warm, fed: 16.3. This shows that the simulated winter group relied heavily on protein to fuel their metabolism, the simulated summer group were less dependent on protein and the intermediate group probably used lipids and carbohydrates to fuel metabolic demands. This possibly reflected a trade off between food supply and increased metabolism from treatment to treatment, demonstrating a flexibility which could have been a contributing factor in the ecological tolerance and geological longevity of some brachiopods.