Original Paper

Polar Biology

, Volume 29, Issue 8, pp 688-693

First online:

Hyperoxia alleviates thermal stress in the Antarctic bivalve, Laternula elliptica: evidence for oxygen limited thermal tolerance

  • Hans O. PörtnerAffiliated withAlfred-Wegener-Institute for Polar and Marine Research, Animal Ecophysiology Email author 
  • , Lloyd S. PeckAffiliated withNERC British Antarctic Survey, High Cross
  • , Timo HirseAffiliated withAlfred-Wegener-Institute for Polar and Marine Research, Animal Ecophysiology

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Understanding thermal limits and the ability of species to cope with changing temperatures is crucial for a cause and effect understanding of climate effects on organisms and ecosystems. Data available for marine species from various phyla and climates led to the hypothesis that a mismatch between oxygen demand and limited capacity of oxygen supply to tissues is the first mechanism to restrict survival at thermal extremes. Here we show that doubling the oxygen content of the ambient seawater from 160 mmHg partial pressure to 350 mmHg raised the upper temperature limits of the Antarctic marine bivalve Laternula elliptica by about 2.5°C. It reduced the accumulation of the anaerobic end product succinate or of total CO2 as a sign of respiratory distress. These findings provide further evidence that oxygen supply does limit thermal tolerance in marine animals. As water temperatures rise animals will face a double problem of progressively reduced oxygen solubility in the water and enhanced costs reflected in increased metabolic rates.