Fish Physiology and Biochemistry

, Volume 37, Issue 4, pp 809–819 | Cite as

The effects of temperature on the physiological response to low oxygen in Atlantic sturgeon

  • James D. Kieffer
  • Daniel W. Baker
  • Ashley M. Wood
  • Christos N. Papadopoulos


Atlantic sturgeon (Acipenser oxyrhynchus), which are bottom dwelling and migratory fish, experience environmental hypoxia in their natural environment. Atlantic sturgeon, acclimated to either 5 or 15°C, were subjected to a 1 h severe (<10 mm Hg) hypoxia challenge in order to document their physiological responses. We measured hematological parameters, including O2 transport (hemoglobin, hematocrit), ionic (chloride, osmolality), and metabolic (glucose, lactate) variables under normoxic conditions (~160 mm Hg), immediately following a 1 h exposure to hypoxic water, and following a further 2 h of recovery from this challenge in normoxic water. In a second experiment, we assessed the opercular beat frequency before, during, and after hypoxic exposure. Hemoglobin concentrations and hematocrit were significantly different between fish held at 5°C vs. 15°C and also significantly different between normoxia prior to hypoxia and following recovery. Plasma lactate concentrations increased following hypoxia at both temperatures, indicative of an increase in anaerobic metabolism. In contrast, a significant increase in plasma glucose concentrations in response to hypoxia only occurred at 5°C, suggesting different fuel demands under different temperatures. Changes in opercular beat frequency (OBF) were dependent on temperature. At 5°C, OBF increased upon exposure to hypoxia, but returned to pre-exposure levels within 35 min for the remainder of the experiment. During hypoxia at 15°C, OBF increased very briefly, but then rapidly (within 20 min) decreased to levels below control values. Following a return to normoxia, OBF quickly increased to control levels. Overall, these findings suggest that Atlantic sturgeons are relatively tolerant to short-term and severe hypoxic stress, and the strategies for hypoxia tolerance may be temperature dependent.


Atlantic sturgeon Hypoxia Temperature Metabolism Hematology Opercular beat frequency 



This research was supported by a Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (N. S. E. R. C.) discovery grant to J. D. Kieffer and an N. S. E. R. C. Undergraduate Student Research fellowship to A. M. Wood. Thanks also to Lilianne Arsenault and the MADSAM fish group for continued support, and the School of Graduate Studies (UNB) and the Canadian Society of Zoologists for travel awards to D. W. Baker. The experimental protocol was approved by the University of New Brunswick Animal Care Committee and met Canadian Council of Animal Care guidelines.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • James D. Kieffer
    • 1
  • Daniel W. Baker
    • 1
  • Ashley M. Wood
    • 1
  • Christos N. Papadopoulos
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of BiologyUniversity of New BrunswickSaint JohnCanada

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