The rate of hypoxia induction (RHI) is an important but overlooked dimension of environmental hypoxia that may affect an organism’s survival. We hypothesized that, compared with rapid RHI, gradual RHI will afford an organism more time to alter plastic phenotypes associated with O2 uptake and subsequently reduce the critical O2 tension (Pcrit) of O2 uptake rate (ṀO2). We investigated this by determining Pcrit values for goldfish exposed to short (∼24 min), typical (∼84 min) and long (∼480 min) duration Pcrit trials to represent different RHIs. Consistent with our predictions, long duration Pcrit trials yielded significantly lower Pcrit values (1.0-1.4 kPa) than short and typical duration trials, which did not differ (2.6±0.3 and 2.5±0.2 kPa, respectively). Parallel experiments revealed these time-related shifts in Pcrit were associated with changes in aspects of the O2 transport cascade: gill surface areas and haemoglobin-O2 binding affinities were significantly higher in fish exposed to gradual RHIs over 480 min than fish exposed to rapid RHIs over 60 min. Our results also revealed that the choice of respirometric technique (i.e., closed versus intermittent) does not affect Pcrit or routine ṀO2, despite the significantly reduced water pH and elevated CO2 and ammonia levels measured following closed-circuit Pcrit trials of ∼90 min. Together, our results demonstrate that gradual RHIs result in alterations to physiological parameters that enhance O2 uptake in hypoxic environments. An organism’s innate Pcrit is therefore most accurately determined using rapid RHIs (<90 min) so as to avoid the confounding effects of hypoxic acclimation.
- Received December 29, 2016.
- Accepted May 2, 2017.
- © 2017. Published by The Company of Biologists Ltd