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The metabolism and swimming performance of sheepshead minnows (Cyprinodon variegatus) following thermal acclimation or acute thermal exposure


Ectothermic animals are especially susceptible to temperature change, considering that their metabolism and core temperature are linked to the environmental temperature. As global water temperatures continue to increase, so does the need to understand the capacity of organisms to tolerate change. Sheepshead minnows (Cyprinodon variegatus) are the most eurythermic fish species known to date and can tolerate a wide range of environmental temperatures from − 1.9 to 43.0 °C. But little is known about the physiological adjustments that occur when these fish are subjected to acute thermal challenges and long-term thermal acclimation. Minnows were acclimated to 10, 21, or 32 °C for 4 weeks or acutely exposed to 10 and 32 °C and then assessed for swimming performance [maximum sustained swimming velocity (Ucrit), optimum swimming velocity (Uopt)] and metabolic endpoints (extrapolated standard and maximum metabolic rate [SMR, MMR), absolute aerobic scope (AS), and cost of transport (COT)]. Our findings show that the duration of thermal exposure (acute vs. acclimation) did not influence swimming performance. Rather, swimming performance was influenced by the exposure temperature. Swimming performance was statistically similar in fish exposed to 21 or 32 °C (approximately 7.0 BL s−1), but was drastically reduced in fish exposed to 10 °C (approximately 2.0 BL s−1), resulting in a left-skewed performance curve. There was no difference in metabolic end points between fish acutely exposed or acclimated to 10 °C. However, a different pattern was observed in fish exposed to 32 °C. MMR was similar between acutely exposed or acclimated fish, but acclimated fish had a 50% reduction in extrapolated SMR, which increased AS by 25%. However, this enhanced AS was not associated with changes in swimming performance, which opposes the oxygen-capacity limited thermal tolerance concept. Our findings suggest that sheepshead minnows may utilize two distinct acclimation strategies, resulting in different swimming performance and metabolic patterns observed between 10 and 32 °C exposures.

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The authors would like to thank Dr. Aaron Roberts at the University of North Texas for supplying bench space and aquarium equipment at the UNT Environmental Science Aquatics Facility for the duration of these exposures. We would also like to thank Dr. Kurt Gamperl at Memorial University of Newfoundland for his valuable insight and recommendations during the data analysis and writing process. Lastly, we would like to thank the anonymous reviewers whose constructive feedback helped elevate this paper. This project was made possible through the University of North Texas start-up funds awarded to Dane A. Crossley and Edward M. Mager.

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Conceptualization: ARK and DACII. Methodology: ARK and EMM. Formal analysis and investigation: ARK. Writing—original draft preparation: ARK. Writing—review and editing: ARK, DACII, and EMM. Funding acquisition: DACII, and EMM. Resources: DACII, and EMM. Supervision: DACII, and EMM.

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Correspondence to Dane A. Crossley II.

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Kirby, A.R., Crossley, D.A. & Mager, E.M. The metabolism and swimming performance of sheepshead minnows (Cyprinodon variegatus) following thermal acclimation or acute thermal exposure. J Comp Physiol B 190, 557–568 (2020).

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