Thermal acclimation is not necessary to maintain a wide thermal breadth of aerobic scope in the common killifish (Fundulus heteroclitus)

Physiol Biochem Zool. Mar-Apr 2012;85(2):107-19. doi: 10.1086/664584. Epub 2012 Feb 1.


Loss of aerobic scope at high and low temperatures is a physiological mechanism proposed to limit the thermal performance and tolerance of organisms, a theory known as oxygen- and capacity-limited thermal tolerance (OCLTT). Eurythermal organisms maintain aerobic scope over wide ranges of temperatures, but it is unknown whether acclimation is necessary to maintain this breadth. The objective of this study was to examine changes in aerobic scope in Fundulus heteroclitus, a eurythermal fish, after acclimation and acute exposure to temperatures from 5° to 33°C. The range of temperatures over which aerobic scope was nonzero was similar in acclimated and acutely exposed fish, suggesting that acclimation has modest effects on the thermal breadth of aerobic scope. However, in acclimated fish, there was a clear optimum temperature range for aerobic scope between 25° and 30°C, whereas aerobic scope was relatively constant across the entire temperature range with acute temperature exposure. Therefore, the primary effect of acclimation was to increase aerobic scope between 25° and 30°C, which paradoxically resulted in a narrower temperature range of optimal performance in acclimated fish compared to acutely exposed fish. There was only weak evidence for correlations between the thermal optimum of aerobic scope and the thermal optimum of measures of performance (specific growth rate and gonadosomatic index), and indicators of anaerobic metabolism (lactate accumulation and lactate dehydrogenase activity) only increased at high temperatures. Together these data fit many, but not all, of the predictions made by OCLTT.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acclimatization / physiology*
  • Aerobiosis / physiology
  • Anaerobiosis
  • Animals
  • Female
  • Fundulidae / growth & development
  • Fundulidae / physiology*
  • L-Lactate Dehydrogenase / metabolism
  • Lactic Acid / blood
  • Lactic Acid / metabolism
  • Male
  • Models, Biological
  • Muscles / enzymology
  • Muscles / metabolism
  • Ovary / growth & development
  • Oxygen Consumption / physiology
  • Temperature


  • Lactic Acid
  • L-Lactate Dehydrogenase