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Combined effects of temperature increase and immune challenge in two wild gudgeon populations


In the context of global changes, aquatic ecosystems are increasingly exposed to multiple stressors that can have unexpected interactive effects on aquatic organisms. Among these stressors, the occurrence of heat waves and pathogens is changing rapidly in freshwater rivers, but their combined effects on fish health are still understudied. In this study, we experimentally tested the crossed effects of increased temperature (mimicking a heat wave) and a standardized immune challenge (mimicking a parasite attack) on wild gudgeon (Gobio occitaniae) physiology and behaviour across biological levels from molecules to the whole individual. We also investigated the potential variation of sensitivity among populations by comparing two wild populations from contrasted thermal regimes. Combined stressors (i.e. temperature increase and immune challenge) had contrasted effects on fish physiology and behaviour compared to single stressors, but only at the individual level. In particular, the immune challenge inhibited the effect of the temperature on fish behaviour (activity, exploration and foraging) but amplified the negative effect of temperature on fish survival. No interactions were found at other biological levels. This study thus shows that it is essential to consider biotic stressors such as pathogens to better anticipate the effects of global changes on aquatic organisms. In addition, there was a high variability of response between the two gudgeon populations, suggesting that future studies should take into account population variability to better predict the responses of aquatic wildlife to current and future stressors.

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We thank reviewers for constructive comments. We thank Myriam Cousseau, Corinne Pautot, Sandrine Papillon, Michel le Hénaff, Sylvie Bony, Alain Devaux, Océane Morrisseau, Laura Madeline, and the technical service of INP-ENSAT for technical assistance.


This work was supported by a grant from the water agency Adour-Garonne and by the French national programme CNRS EC2CO-Ecodyn (PHYPAT). The EDB laboratory is part of the French Laboratory of Excellence “TULIP” (ANR-10-LABX-41; ANR-11-IDEX-0002-02).

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Correspondence to Quentin Petitjean.

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All experimental procedures were conducted in compliance with French and European legislation for animal experimentation (European directive 2010/63/UE). Fish capture was conducted under the authorization PE 2017-001 and fish were treated for parasites according to the prescription 2529, VetoFish. Experimental procedures were conducted under the French animal handler’s certificate (no. 31-103), the establishment approval for vertebrate experimentation no. A3113002, and were approved by the ethical committee no. 073 (authorization no. 8538).

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Petitjean, Q., Jean, S., Côte, J. et al. Combined effects of temperature increase and immune challenge in two wild gudgeon populations. Fish Physiol Biochem 46, 157–176 (2020).

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  • Multiple stressors
  • Climate change
  • Pathogens
  • Physiology
  • Behaviour
  • Inter-population variability