The Atlantic salmon is extensively studied due to conservation concerns and its economic importance in aquaculture. However, a thorough report of their aerobic capacity throughout their entire thermal niche has not been described. In this study, Atlantic salmon (∼450 g) were acclimated for four weeks at 3, 8, 13, 18 or 23°C, and then tested in a large Brett-type swimming respirometer in groups of ten per trial. Both standard metabolic rate and active metabolic rate continued to increase with temperature, which resulted in an aerobic scope that also increased with temperature, but was statistically similar between 13, 18 and 23°C. The critical swimming speed peaked at 18°C (93.1±1.2 cm s−1), and decreased significantly at the extreme temperatures to 74.8±0.5 cm s−1 and 84.8±1.6 cm s−1 at 3°C and 23°C respectively. At 23°C the accumulated mortality reached 20% over four weeks, while no fish died during acclimation at colder temperatures. Furthermore, fish at 23°C had poor appetite and lower condition factor despite still having a high aerobic scope, suggesting that oxygen uptake was not the limiting factor in the upper thermal niche boundary. In conclusion, Atlantic salmon were able to maintain a high aerobic capacity and good swimming capabilities throughout the entire thermal interval tested, thus demonstrating a high level of flexibility in respiratory capacity towards different temperature exposures.
- Received November 25, 2016.
- Accepted May 10, 2017.
- © 2017. Published by The Company of Biologists Ltd