University Of Tasmania

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Physiological benefits of being small in a changing world: responses of coho salmon (Oncorhynchus kisutch) to an acute thermal challenge and a simulated capture event

journal contribution
posted on 2023-05-18, 13:22 authored by Clark, TD, Donaldson, MR, Pieperhoff, S, Drenner, SM, Lotto, A, Cooke, SJ, Hinch, SG, Patterson, DA, Farrell, AP
Evidence is building to suggest that both chronic and acute warm temperature exposure, as well as other anthropogenic perturbations, may select for small adult fish within a species. To shed light on this phenomenon, we investigated physiological and anatomical attributes associated with size-specific responses to an acute thermal challenge and a fisheries capture simulation (exercise+air exposure) in maturing male coho salmon (Oncorhynchus kisutch). Full-size females were included for a sex-specific comparison. A size-specific response in haematology to an acute thermal challenge (from 7 to 20°C at 3°C h−1) was apparent only for plasma potassium, whereby full-size males exhibited a significant increase in comparison with smaller males (‘jacks’). Full-size females exhibited an elevated blood stress response in comparison with full-size males. Metabolic recovery following exhaustive exercise at 7°C was size-specific, with jacks regaining resting levels of metabolism at 9.3±0.5 h post-exercise in comparison with 12.3±0.4 h for full-size fish of both sexes. Excess post-exercise oxygen consumption scaled with body mass in male fish with an exponent of b = 1.20±0.08. Jacks appeared to regain osmoregulatory homeostasis faster than full-size males, and they had higher ventilation rates at 1 h post-exercise. Peak metabolic rate during post-exercise recovery scaled with body mass with an exponent of b~1, suggesting that the slower metabolic recovery in large fish was not due to limitations in diffusive or convective oxygen transport, but that large fish simply accumulated a greater ‘oxygen debt’ that took longer to pay back at the size-independent peak metabolic rate of ~6 mg min−1 kg−1. Post-exercise recovery of plasma testosterone was faster in jacks compared with full-size males, suggesting less impairment of the maturation trajectory of smaller fish. Supporting previous studies, these findings suggest that environmental change and non-lethal fisheries interactions have the potential to select for small individuals within fish populations over time.


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Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies


Public Library of Science

Place of publication

United States

Repository Status

  • Restricted

Socio-economic Objectives

Coastal or estuarine biodiversity

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