Environmental Biology of Fishes

, Volume 58, Issue 3, pp 237–275

Temperature Tolerances of North American Freshwater Fishes Exposed to Dynamic Changes in Temperature

  • Thomas L. Beitinger
  • Wayne A. Bennett
  • Robert W. McCauley

DOI: 10.1023/A:1007676325825

Cite this article as:
Beitinger, T.L., Bennett, W.A. & McCauley, R.W. Environmental Biology of Fishes (2000) 58: 237. doi:10.1023/A:1007676325825


Traditionally lower and upper temperature tolerances of fishes have been quantified in the laboratory via three different experimental approaches: the Fry or incipient lethal temperature (ILT), critical thermal (CTM) and chronic lethal (CLM) methodologies. Although these three experimental laboratory approaches generate endpoints which are quantitatively expressed as a temperature, are determined experimentally with random samples of fish acclimated to specific temperatures, and involve both time and temperature as major test variables, they do not quantify the same response. All three approaches generate valuable, albeit different, information concerning the temperature tolerance of a species. In this review we have summarized published research concerning the tolerance of North American freshwater fishes to dynamic changes in temperature, i.e., tolerance is tested by methods that gradually change temperatures until biological stress is observed. We found more than 450 individual temperature tolerances listed in 80 publications which present original dynamic temperature tolerance data for 116 species, 7 subspecies and 7 hybrids from 19 families of North American freshwater fishes. This total represents about 1/3 of the families and 1/6 of the known North American freshwater species. Temperature tolerance data were partitioned by experimental approach, i.e., critical thermal method (CTM) and chronic lethal method (CLM), and direction of temperature change. Although both CTM and CLM expose fish to dynamic changes in water temperature, these two methods differ in temperature change rates and test endpoints, and hence measure different aspects of thermal stress. A majority of the 80 studies employed CTM to assess temperature tolerance, in particular determination of CTmaxima. One or more CTmaxima has been reported for 108 fishes. Twenty-two fishes have reported highest CTmaxima of 40°C or higher. Several species in the family Cyprinodontidae have generated some of the highest CTmaxima reported for any ectothermic vertebrate. For a variety of reasons, data concerning tolerance of low temperatures are less plentiful. Low temperature tolerance quantified as either CTminima or CLminima were found for a total of 37 fishes. Acclimation temperature exerts a major effect on the temperature tolerance of most North American fish species and it is usually strongly linearly related to both CTmaxima and CTminima. Although we uncovered dynamic temperature tolerance data for 130 fishes, only a single dynamic, temperature tolerance polygon has been published, that for the sheepshead minnow, Cyprinodon variegatus.

critical thermal maximum critical thermal minimum chronic lethal maximum chronic lethal minimum lethal temperatures 

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2000

Authors and Affiliations

  • Thomas L. Beitinger
    • 1
  • Wayne A. Bennett
    • 2
  • Robert W. McCauley
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of BiologyUniversity of North TexasDentonU.S.A.
  2. 2.Department of BiologyUniversity of West FloridaPensacolaU.S.A.
  3. 3.Department of BiologyWilfrid Laurier UniversityWaterlooCanada

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