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Mechanisms and evolution of hypoxia tolerance in family Cottidae Mandic, Milica


A comparative phylogenetically independent contrast (PIC) analysis was employed to investigate the adaptive role of traits involved in hypoxia tolerance in sculpins, a group of closely related fish species that live in the nearshore marine environment. I demonstrated that there was a tight correlation between critical oxygen (O₂) tension (P-crit) and the distribution of species across an environmental gradient. Species of sculpins with the lowest P-crit inhabit the 0₂ variable intertidal zone, while species with higher P-crit inhabit the O₂ stable subtidal zone. Low P-crit values in sculpins were associated with enhanced O₂ extraction capacity, with three principal traits accounting for 83% of the variation in P-crit: low routine O₂ consumption rate (MO2 ), high mass specific gill surface area and high whole cell hemoglobin-oxygen (Hb-0₂) binding affinity. Variation in whole cell Hb-O₂ binding affinity was strongly correlated with the intrinsic affinity of Hb for O₂ and not to differences in the concentration of the allosteric Hb modulators ATP and GTP. When environmental O₂ dropped below a species' P-crit, some species of sculpins behaviorally responded to the severe hypoxia by performing aquatic surface respiration (ASR) and aerial emergence. Although intertidal sculpins consistently performed these behaviors, the clustering of these species into a single phylogenetic Glade did not allow us to draw conclusions regarding the relationship between ASR, aerial emergence and P-crit using PIC analysis. Three species of sculpins, which were chosen because of their low, medium and high P-crit values, exhibited dramatically varied mortality rates when exposed to severe hypoxia equivalent to 40% of their respective P-crit. Although ATP turnover rates were similar between the three species in the initial two hours of hypoxia exposure, the differences in the ability of the three species to survive severe hypoxia appeared to be associated with the concentration of on-board liver glycogen and the degree of liver glycogen depletion. However, when liver glycogen was assessed in twelve species of sculpins at normoxia and compared with P-crit, there was nosignificant PIC correlation between P-crit and liver glycogen. Overall, I have shown that there is a clear relationship between P-crit and the distribution of sculpins along the nearshore environment and that this is primarily related to differences in O₂ extraction capacity. When O₂ tensions are well below their P-crit, there are dramatic differences in behavioral, physiological and biochemical responses among these species of sculpins.

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