3 years ago

Testing hypoxia: physiological effects of long-term exposure in two freshwater fishes

Bronwyn M. Gillanders, Kayla L. Gilmore, Zoe A. Doubleday


Hypoxic or oxygen-free zones are linked to large-scale mortalities of fauna in aquatic environments. Studies investigating the hypoxia tolerance of fish are limited and focused on marine species and short-term exposure. However, there has been minimal effort to understand the implications of long-term exposure on fish and their ability to acclimate. To test the effects of long-term exposure (months) of fish to hypoxia we devised a novel method to control the level of available oxygen. Juvenile golden perch (Macquaria ambigua ambigua), and silver perch (Bidyanus bidyanus), two key native species found within the Murray Darling Basin, Australia, were exposed to different temperatures (20, 24 and 28 °C) combined with normoxic (6–8 mgO2 L−1 or 12–14 kPa) and hypoxic (3–4 mgO2 L−1 or 7–9 kPa) conditions. After 10 months, fish were placed in individual respirometry chambers to measure standard and maximum metabolic rate (SMR and MMR), absolute aerobic scope (AAS) and hypoxia tolerance. Golden perch had a much higher tolerance to hypoxia exposure than silver perch, as most silver perch died after only 1 month exposure. Golden perch acclimated to hypoxia had reduced MMR at 20 and 28 °C, but there was no change to SMR. Long-term exposure to hypoxia improved the tolerance of golden perch to hypoxia, compared to individuals held under normoxic conditions suggesting that golden perch can acclimate to levels around 3 mgO2 L−1 (kPa ~ 7) and lower. The contrasting tolerance of two sympatric fish species to hypoxia highlights our lack of understanding of how hypoxia effects fish after long-term exposure.

Publisher URL: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00442-017-3992-3

DOI: 10.1007/s00442-017-3992-3

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