Environmental Biology of Fishes

, Volume 7, Issue 1, pp 47–55

Aquatic surface respiration, a widespread adaptation to hypoxia in tropical freshwater fishes

  • Donald L. Kramer
  • Martha McClure

DOI: 10.1007/BF00011822

Cite this article as:
Kramer, D.L. & McClure, M. Environ Biol Fish (1982) 7: 47. doi:10.1007/BF00011822


Use of the surface water for aquatic respiration (aquatic surface respiration, ASR) is one of the few alternatives to aerial respiration which allow fish to survive extreme hypoxia, yet it has received very little attention. This report examines three generalizations concerning ASR on a phylogenetically and geographically diverse range of tropical freshwater fishes. It demonstrates that ASR greatly enhances survival in hypoxic water, even in fish not morphologically specialized to use the surface film, that ASR is initiated at a distinct threshold oxygen concentration, with time spent at the surface increasing rapidly as O2 declines, and that with extreme deoxygenation fish perform ASR over 90% of the time. Ninety-four percent of the 31 species of non-air breathing fish tested showed ASR., with the threshold oxygen concentration ranging from 6 to 40 torr.


Aerial respirationAir breathingHypoxiaRivulus hartiiHyphessobrycon pulchripinnisAequidens coeruleopunctatusCopellaPterophyllumOsteoglossum bicirrhosum

Copyright information

© Dr W. Junk Publishers 1982

Authors and Affiliations

  • Donald L. Kramer
    • 1
  • Martha McClure
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of BiologyMcGill UniversityMontrealCanada
  2. 2.G.S.S.P.M.B.OtukpoNigeria