Journal of Comparative Physiology B

, Volume 181, Issue 3, pp 361–371 | Cite as

Anoxic survival of the Pacific hagfish (Eptatretus stoutii)

  • Georgina K. Cox
  • Eric Sandblom
  • Jeffrey G. Richards
  • Anthony P. Farrell
Original Paper


It is not known how the Pacific hagfish (Eptatretus stoutii) can survive extended periods of anoxia. The present study used two experimental approaches to examine energy use during and following anoxic exposure periods of different durations (6, 24 and 36 h). By measuring oxygen consumption prior to anoxic exposure, we detected a circadian rhythm, with hagfish being active during night and showing a minimum routine oxygen consumption (RMR) during the daytime. By measuring the excess post-anoxic oxygen consumption (EPAOC) after 6 and 24 h it was possible to mathematically account for RMR being maintained even though heme stores of oxygen would have been depleted by the animal’s metabolism during the first hours of anoxia. However, EPAOC after 36 h of anoxia could not account for RMR being maintained. Measurements of tissue glycogen disappearance and lactate appearance during anoxia showed that the degree of glycolysis and the timing of its activation varied among tissues. Yet, neither measurement could account for the RMR being maintained during even the 6-h anoxic period. Therefore, two independent analyses of the metabolic responses of hagfish to anoxia exposure suggest that hagfish utilize metabolic rate suppression as part of the strategy for longer-term anoxia survival.


Anoxia Routine metabolic rate Excess post-anoxic oxygen consumption Metabolic rate suppression Lactate Glucose ATP 



Analysis of variance


Degree celsius


Excess post-anoxic oxygen consumption

\( \dot{M}{\text{O}}_{2} \)

Metabolic rate (rate of O2 consumption)


Metabolic rate suppression


Partial pressure of O2


Routine metabolic rate



This work was supported by an NSERC Canada Discovery grants awarded to Anthony P. Farrell and Jeffrey G. Richards. We thank Janice Oaks at DFO and Bruce Cameron at the Bamfield Marine Science Centre for assistance with fish care, Dan Baker, UBC, blood pH measurements, M. Mandic and G. Lau, UBC, for instruction on metabolite assays.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Georgina K. Cox
    • 1
  • Eric Sandblom
    • 2
    • 3
  • Jeffrey G. Richards
    • 1
  • Anthony P. Farrell
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of ZoologyUniversity of British ColumbiaVancouverCanada
  2. 2.Faculty of Land and Food SystemsUniversity of British ColumbiaVancouverCanada
  3. 3.Department of ZoologyUniversity of GothenburgGothenburgSweden

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