Journal of Comparative Physiology B

, Volume 189, Issue 1, pp 109–120 | Cite as

Physiological effects of dissolved oxygen are stage-specific in incubating Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar)

  • Andrew T. WoodEmail author
  • Timothy D. Clark
  • Nicholas G. Elliott
  • Peter B. Frappell
  • Sarah J. Andrewartha
Original Paper


Oxygen availability is highly variable during salmonid incubation in natural redds and also in aquaculture incubation systems. Hypoxia generally decreases growth and aerobic metabolism prior to hatching, in parallel with eliciting physiological modifications that enhance oxygen delivery. However, it is less-well known whether developmental hyperoxia can drive the opposite effect. Moreover, there is insufficient understanding of stage-specific developmental windows during which ambient oxygen availability may be of greater or lesser impact to incubating embryos. Here, we tested the effects of hypoxia (50% dissolved oxygen: DO, % air saturation) and hyperoxia (150% DO) on the growth, routine aerobic metabolism (\(\dot {M}{{\text{O}}_{{\text{2rout}}}}\)) and hypoxia tolerance (O2crit) of Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar) during seven developmental windows throughout incubation. Embryos exposed to hyperoxia (150% DO) did not differ from the normoxic group in growth, \(\dot {M}{{\text{O}}_{{\text{2rout}}}}\) or O2crit at any developmental window. In contrast, embryos exposed to hypoxia grew slower and had a lower \(\dot {M}{{\text{O}}_{{\text{2rout}}}}\), but had higher hypoxia tolerance (lower O2crit) than normoxic and hyperoxic counterparts. Interestingly, these differences were only apparent when the embryos were measured prior to hatching. Larvae (alevins) incubated in hypoxia following hatching grew similarly to normoxia-incubated alevins. Our results provide evidence that Atlantic salmon embryos are most sensitive to hypoxia prior to hatching, probably due to increasing (absolute) oxygen requirements concurrent with restricted oxygen diffusion through the egg. Moreover, the similarities between normoxia- and hyperoxia-incubated salmon demonstrate that embryos are not oxygen-limited under normoxic conditions.


Atlantic salmon Hypoxia Hyperoxia Developmental windows Aerobic metabolism 



We would like to thank the Salmon Enterprises of Tasmania (SALTAS) hatchery staff for supplying eggs and assistance monitoring experimental systems. This research was supported financially by SALTAS. An Australian Government Research Training Program Scholarship was awarded to A.T.W. All experiments carried out in this study were performed in compliance with the University of Tasmania Ethics Committee (Hobart, Australia) under ethics permit A0013794.

Supplementary material

360_2018_1199_MOESM1_ESM.docx (16 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 16 KB)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, Agriculture and FoodBattery PointAustralia
  2. 2.School of Life and Environmental SciencesDeakin UniversityGeelongAustralia
  3. 3.Institute for Marine and Antarctic StudiesUniversity of TasmaniaBattery PointAustralia

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