, Volume 137, Issue 4, pp 502-511

First online:

Oxygen consumption in weakly electric Neotropical fishes

  • David JulianAffiliated withDepartment of Zoology, University of Florida Email author 
  • , William G. R. CramptonAffiliated withDepartment of Zoology, University of Florida
  • , Stephanie E. WohlgemuthAffiliated withDepartment of Zoology, University of Florida
  • , James S. AlbertAffiliated withDepartment of Zoology, University of FloridaFlorida Museum of Natural History, University of Florida

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Weakly electric gymnotiform fishes with wave-type electric organ discharge (EOD) are less hypoxia-tolerant and are less likely to be found in hypoxic habitats than weakly electric gymnotiforms with pulse-type EOD, suggesting that differences in metabolism resulting from EOD type affects habitat choice. Although gymnotiform fishes are common in most Neotropical freshwaters and represent the dominant vertebrates in some habitats, the metabolic rates of these unique fishes have never been determined. In this study, O2 consumption rates during EOD generation are reported for 34 gymnotiforms representing 23 species, all five families and 17 (59%) of the 28 genera. Over the size range sampled (0.4 g to 125 g), O2 consumption of gymnotiform fishes was dependent on body mass, as expected, fitting a power function with a scaling exponent of 0.74, but the O2 consumption rate was generally about 50% of that expected by extrapolation of temperate teleost metabolic rates to a similar ambient temperature (26°C). O2 consumption rate was not dependent on EOD type, but maintenance of “scan swimming” (continuous forwards and backwards swimming), which is characteristic only of gymnotiforms with wave-type EODs, increased O2 consumption 2.83±0.49-fold (mean±SD). This suggests that the increased metabolic cost of scan swimming could restrict gymnotiforms with wave-type EODs from hypoxic habitats.


Gymnotiforms Electric fish Electric organ discharge Metabolism Amazon Scan swimming