Extreme temperature combined with hypoxia, affects swimming performance in brown trout (Salmo trutta)

Robert Nudds, Karlina Ozolina, Miriam Fenkes, Oliver Wearing, Holly Shiels

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Climate change is predicted to impact freshwater aquatic environments through changes to water temperature (Twater), river flow and eutrophication. Riverine habitats contain many economically and ecologically important fishes. One such group are the migratory salmonids, which are sensitive to warm Twater and low O2 (hypoxia). While several studies have investigated the independent effects of Twater and hypoxia on fish physiology, the combined effects of these stressors is less well known. Furthermore, no study has investigated the effects of Twater and O2 saturation levels within the range currently experienced by a salmonid species. Thus, the aim of this study was to investigate the simultaneous effects of Twater and O2 saturation level on the energetics and kinematics of steady state swimming in brown trout, Salmo trutta. No effect of O2 saturation level (70 and 100% air saturation) on tail-beat kinematics was detected. Conversely, Twater (10, 14, 18 and 22°C) did affect tail-beat kinematics, but a trade-off between frequency (ftail) and amplitude (A, maximum tail excursion) maintained the Strouhal number (St = ftail• A/U, where U is swimming speed) within the theoretically most mechanically efficient range. Swimming oxygen consumption rate( ) and cost of transport (COT) increased with both U and Twater. The only effect of O2 푀O2 saturation level was observed at the highest Twater (22°C) and fastest swimming speed (two speeds were used - 0.6 and 0.8 m s-1). As the extremes of this study are consistent with current summer conditions in parts of UK waterways, our findings may indicate that S. trutta will be negatively impacted by the increased Twater and reduced O2 levels likely presented by anthropogenic climate change.
Original languageEnglish
JournalConservation Physiology
Publication statusPublished - 23 Jan 2020


  • fish
  • physiology
  • energetics
  • respirometry
  • kinematics
  • climate change

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