Upper Thermal Tolerance and Heat Shock Protein Response of Juvenile American Shad (Alosa sapidissima)

  • S. M. BayseEmail author
  • C. A. Shaughnessy
  • A. M. Regish
  • S. D. McCormick
Short Communication


Juvenile American shad (Alosa sapidissima) experience a wide range of temperatures in rivers before migrating to the ocean. Temperatures in these freshwater environments can vary greatly spatially, seasonally, year-to-year, and can be impacted by anthropogenic factors such as power plant discharge or climate change. Currently, there is uncertainty concerning juvenile American shad thermal tolerance due to a lack of a well-controlled study. Here, we report results of laboratory experiments to establish the upper thermal tolerance and heat shock protein response of juvenile American shad exposed to gradually increasing temperatures. Upper thermal tolerance was determined to be 35 °C (median; range = 34–36 °C) when fish were acclimated to 25 °C and temperatures were raised 1 °C day−1. Heat shock protein response was indicated by changes in branchial mRNA abundance of the inducible heat shock protein 90 alpha (hsp90α), which was significantly elevated (more than 5-fold increase) at 30 °C, and highest in fish that had reached their upper thermal maximum between 34 and 36 °C. Our findings indicate a higher upper thermal tolerance than previously reported for juvenile American shad, and an onset temperature of hsp90α induction at 30 °C, a temperature juvenile American shad commonly experience during summer months.


American shad Temperature Chronic lethal maximum HSP Climate change 



We would like to thank L. Vargas-Chacoff and A. Weinstock for assistance with sampling, Bryan Apell for assistance with fish collection, and J.P. Velotta for providing transcriptome-derived alewife HSP sequences.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

All experiments were carried out under US Geological Survey Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee Guidelines under protocol no. C09076.


Any use of trade, firm, or product names is for descriptive purposes only and does not imply endorsement by the US Government.


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Copyright information

© This is a U.S. government work and its text is not subject to copyright protection in the United States; however, its text may be subject to foreign copyright protection  2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.U.S. Geological Survey, Leetown Science Center, S.O. Conte Anadromous Fish Research LaboratoryTurners FallsUSA
  2. 2.Fisheries and Marine InstituteMemorial University of NewfoundlandSt. John’sCanada
  3. 3.Graduate Program in Organismic and Evolutionary BiologyUniversity of Massachusetts AmherstAmherstUSA

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