Environmental Biology of Fishes

, Volume 40, Issue 3, pp 303–318

Cardiovascular and respiratory physiology of tuna: adaptations for support of exceptionally high metabolic rates

  • Peter G. Bushnell
  • David R. Jones

DOI: 10.1007/BF00002519

Cite this article as:
Bushnell, P.G. & Jones, D.R. Environ Biol Fish (1994) 40: 303. doi:10.1007/BF00002519


Both physical and physiological modifications to the oxygen transport system promote high metabolic performance of tuna. The large surface area of the gills and thin blood-water barrier means that O2 utilization is high (30–50%) even when ram ventilation approaches 101 min−1kg−1. The heart is extremely large and generates peak blood pressures in the range of 70–100 mmHg at frequencies of 1–5 Hz. The blood O2 capacity approaches 16 ml dl−1 and a large Bohr coefficient (−0.83 to −1.17) ensures adequate loading and unloading of O2 from the well buffered blood (20.9 slykes). Tuna muscles have aerobic oxidation rates that are 3–5 times higher than in other teleosts and extremely high glycolytic capacity (150 μmol g−1 lactate generated) due to enhanced concentration of glycolytic enzymes. Gill resistance in tuna is high and may be more than 50% of total peripheral resistance so that dorsal aortic pressure is similar to that in other active fishes such as salmon or trout. An O2 delivery/demand model predicts the maximum sustained swimming speed of small yellowfin and skipjack tuna is 5.6 BL s−1 and 3.5 BL sec−1, respectively. The surplus O2 delivery capacity at lower swimming speeds allows tuna to repay large oxygen debts while swimming at 2–2.5 BL s−1. Maximum oxygen consumption (7–9 × above the standard metabolic rate) at maximum exercise is provided by approximately 2 × increases in each of heart rate, stroke volume, and arterial-venous O2 content difference.

Key words

ScombridsExerciseSwimmingOxygen dissociationOxygen uptakeAcid-base balance

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1994

Authors and Affiliations

  • Peter G. Bushnell
    • 1
  • David R. Jones
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Biological SciencesIndiana University South BendSouth BendUSA
  2. 2.Department of ZoologyUniversity of British ColumbiaVancouverCanada