Effects of environmental oxygen on development and respiration of Australian lungfish (Neoceratodus forsteri) embryos

  • Casey A. Mueller
  • Jean M. P. Joss
  • Roger S. Seymour
Original Paper


The effects of oxygen partial pressure (\( P_{{{\text{O}}_{2} }} \)) on development and respiration were investigated in the eggs of the Australian lungfish, Neoceratodus forsteri. At 20°C, embryonic survival and development was optimal at 15 and 20.9 kPa. Development was slowed at 5 and 10 kPa and embryos did not survive 2 kPa. At lower \( P_{{{\text{O}}_{2} }} \), the rate of oxygen consumption also decreased. Embryos responded to hypoxia by hatching at an earlier age and stage of development, and hatching wet and dry gut-free masses were reduced. The role of oxygen conductance (\( G_{{{\text{O}}_{2} }} \)) in gas exchange was also examined under selected environmental \( P_{{{\text{O}}_{2} }} \) and temperatures. The breakdown of the vitelline membrane changed capsule geometry, allowed water to be absorbed into the perivitelline space and increased capsule \( G_{{{\text{O}}_{2} }} \). This occurred at embryonic stage 32 under all treatments and was largely independent of both \( P_{{{\text{O}}_{2} }} \) and temperature (15, 20 and 25°C), demonstrating that capsule \( G_{{{\text{O}}_{2} }} \) cannot adaptively respond to altered environmental conditions. The membrane breakdown increased capsule diffusive \( G_{{{\text{O}}_{2} }} \) and stabilised perivitelline \( P_{{{\text{O}}_{2} }} \), but reduced the convective \( G_{{{\text{O}}_{2} }} \) of the perivitelline fluid, as the large perivitelline volume and inadequate convective current resulted in a \( P_{{{\text{O}}_{2} }} \) gradient within the egg prior to hatch.


Neoceratodus forsteri Embryos Development Respiration Hypoxia Capsule conductance 



We thank Rolf Ericsson from the Australian lungfish laboratory, Macquarie University for his expertise and help in the collection of eggs and the two anonymous reviewers for helpful comments on the manuscript. We acknowledge funding from the University of Adelaide and Australian Geographic Society.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Casey A. Mueller
    • 1
  • Jean M. P. Joss
    • 2
  • Roger S. Seymour
    • 1
  1. 1.Ecology and Evolutionary BiologyUniversity of AdelaideAdelaideAustralia
  2. 2.Biological SciencesMacquarie UniversitySydneyAustralia

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