Pragmatic perspective on aerobic scope: peaking, plummeting, pejus and apportioning

J Fish Biol. 2016 Jan;88(1):322-43. doi: 10.1111/jfb.12789. Epub 2015 Nov 22.


A major challenge for fish biologists in the 21st century is to predict the biotic effects of global climate change. With marked changes in biogeographic distribution already in evidence for a variety of aquatic animals, mechanistic explanations for these shifts are being sought, ones that then can be used as a foundation for predictive models of future climatic scenarios. One mechanistic explanation for the thermal performance of fishes that has gained some traction is the oxygen and capacity-limited thermal tolerance (OCLTT) hypothesis, which suggests that an aquatic organism's capacity to supply oxygen to tissues becomes limited when body temperature reaches extremes. Central to this hypothesis is an optimum temperature for absolute aerobic scope (AAS, loosely defined as the capacity to deliver oxygen to tissues beyond a basic need). On either side of this peak for AAS are pejus temperatures that define when AAS falls off and thereby reduces an animal's absolute capacity for activity. This article provides a brief perspective on the potential uses and limitations of some of the key physiological indicators related to aerobic scope in fishes. The intent is that practitioners who attempt predictive ecological applications can better recognize limitations and make better use of the OCLTT hypothesis and its underlying physiology.

Keywords: critical temperature; maximum heart rate; metabolic rate; optimum temperature; oxygen consumption; pejus temperature.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Acclimatization / physiology
  • Animals
  • Climate Change*
  • Fishes / physiology*
  • Oxygen / physiology
  • Oxygen Consumption*
  • Temperature*


  • Oxygen