Environmental Biology of Fishes

, Volume 63, Issue 1, pp 103–115

Seasonal Differences in Hypoxia Tolerance in Gulf Killifish, Fundulus Grandis (Fundulidae)



Many estuarine habitats are characterized by episodes of hypoxia, the frequency and severity of which may vary seasonally. Accordingly, resident fish species may show seasonal differences in their capacity to tolerate hypoxia. We have tested this hypothesis in the gulf killifish, Fundulus grandis, sampled from the Lake Pontchartrain estuary (Louisiana) at different times of the year. We measured 2 indicators of hypoxia tolerance, the frequency of aquatic surface respiration (ASR) during gradual reduction in dissolved oxygen (D.O.) and survival time during severe hypoxic stress, and found both to be significantly affected by season. Fish collected during the summer did not engage in ASR until the D.O. concentration dropped to values lower than that required to elicit ASR by fish collected during other seasons. Laboratory acclimation of fish to low oxygen did not change the relationship between ASR behavior and D.O., suggesting that the observed seasonal effect on ASR was not simply due to previous exposure of summer fish to environmental hypoxia. Furthermore, fish collected during the summer and winter had significantly longer survival times during exposure to severe hypoxia than fish collected during the fall. Survival analysis indicated that the condition of fish was positively associated with survival time, and seasonal variation in condition accounted for about half of the observed difference between survival times of fish collected during the summer and fall. Seasonal variation in ASR and survival, when taken together, demonstrate that hypoxia tolerance in F. grandis may be subject to acclimatization. An increase in hypoxia tolerance during the summer could increase survivorship of fish when exposed to elevated temperatures and low oxygen concentrations which prevail during the summer months.

acclimation acclimatization aquatic surface respiration condition factor estuaries oxygen survival 


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2002

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Biological SciencesUniversity of New OrleansNew OrleansU.S.A.
  2. 2.Department of Biological SciencesMississippi State UniversityMississippi StateU.S.A

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