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Type: Journal article
Title: Prolonged exposure to low oxygen improves hypoxia tolerance in a freshwater fish
Author: Gilmore, K.L.
Doubleday, Z.A.
Gillanders, B.M.
Citation: Conservation Physiology, 2019; 7(1):coz058-1-coz058-10
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Issue Date: 2019
ISSN: 2051-1434
Statement of
Kayla L. Gilmore, Zoe A.Doubleday and Bronwyn M. Gillanders
Abstract: Persistent hypoxic or low-oxygen conditions in aquatic systems are becoming more frequent worldwide, causing large-scale mortalities to aquatic fauna. It is poorly understood, however, whether species can acclimate to long-term hypoxic conditions. In two experiments, we exposed juvenile freshwater fish (Murray cod, Maccullochella peelii) to low-oxygen conditions and investigated acclimation effects. Experiment 1 determined how responses could be modified by exposure to different temperatures (20, 24 and 28°C) and oxygen conditions (control 6-8 mgO₂ L⁻¹ and low-oxygen 3-4 mgO₂ L⁻¹) over 30 days. Experiment 2 determined the acclimation ability of fish exposed to two temperatures (20 and 28°C) and low-oxygen conditions (3-4 mgO₂ L⁻¹) for three different acclimation periods (7, 14 and 30 days). Responses were measured by determining critical oxygen tension (Pcrit), loss of equilibrium and aerobic capacity using resting respirometry. In experiment 1, resting oxygen requirements were negatively affected by long-term low-oxygen exposure except at the highest temperature (28°C). However, long-term acclimation in low-oxygen improved tolerance as measured by loss of equilibrium but not Pcrit. In experiment 2, fish could tolerate lower oxygen levels before reaching loss of equilibrium after 7 days acclimation, but this declined overtime. Murray cod were most tolerant to low-oxygen at the lowest temperature (20°C) and shortest exposure time (7 days). Extended low-oxygen exposure resulted in reduced aerobic capacity of fish particularly at the lowest temperature. While prior exposure to low-oxygen may allow fish to cope with hypoxic conditions better in the long-term, acclimation time was inversely related to tolerance, suggesting that resistance to hypoxia might decrease as a function of exposure time. Our study fills a much-needed gap in our understanding of how freshwater species acclimate to hypoxia, and in particular, how exposure to prolonged periods of low-oxygen and elevated temperatures affect organisms physiologically.
Keywords: Aerobic ability
Murray cod
physiological threshold
Rights: © The Author(s) 2019. Published by Oxford University Press and the Society for Experimental Biology. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted reuse, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
DOI: 10.1093/conphys/coz058
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