O2 consumption and heart rate in developing zebrafish (Danio rerio): influence of temperature and ambient O2

Am J Physiol. 1999 Feb;276(2):R505-13. doi: 10.1152/ajpregu.1999.276.2.R505.


Body mass, length, oxygen consumption (MO2) and heart rate (fH) were measured in "embryos" (prior to hatching), "larvae" (days 10-20), "juveniles" (days 30-70 in 10-day intervals), and "adults" (day 100) of the zebrafish Danio rerio. Fish were chronically reared at either 25, 28, or 31 degreesC and then acutely exposed to hypoxia at different developmental stages. We hypothesized that at any given rearing and measurement temperature, D. rerio would maintain MO2 at lower ambient PO2 [i.e., have a lower critical partial pressure (Pcrit)] as development progressed and that at any given developmental stage individuals reared and measured at higher temperatures would show a more pronounced hypoxic bradycardia. MO2 in normoxic fish at 28 degreesC peaked at approximately 40 micromol. g-1. h-1 at day 10, thereafter falling to 4-5 micromol. g-1. h-1 at day 100. The Q10 for MO2 was 4-5 in embryos, falling to 2-3 from day 10 to day 60 and rising again to 4-5 at day 100. Pcrit at 28 degreesC was approximately 80 mmHg in embryos but decreased sharply to 20 mmHg at 100 days, supporting the hypothesis that more mature fish would be better able to oxygen regulate to lower ambient PO2 levels. Pcrit increased sharply with measurement temperature. Heart rate (fH) at 28 degreesC increased from about 125 beats/min in embryos to a peak of approximately 175 beats/min at days 10-30 and then fell to approximately 130 beats/min by day 100. Unlike for MO2, the Q10 for fH was more constant at 1.2-2.5 throughout development. Hypoxic exposure at any temperature had no effect on fH until approximately day 30, after which time a hypoxic bradycardia was evident. As evident for MO2, the bradycardia in older larvae was more profound at higher temperatures. On the assumption that bradycardia is indicative of hypoxic stress, the increasing prevalence of a hypoxic bradycardia in older, warmer individuals supports the hypothesis that increasing hypoxic susceptibility with development would be exacerbated by increasing temperature. Collectively, these data indicate that the ability to regulate MO2 and fH in response to the compounding demands of increased temperature and/or decreased oxygen availability first develops after approximately 20 days in D. rerio and, thereafter, the ability to maintain MO2 in the face of ambient hypoxia progressively builds through to adulthood. Additionally, the temperature responses of metabolism and heart rate differ substantially at different phases of development, suggesting a loose coupling between the respiratory and cardiovascular systems, at least early in development.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aging / physiology*
  • Anaerobiosis
  • Animals
  • Body Weight
  • Environment
  • Heart Rate / drug effects
  • Heart Rate / physiology*
  • Larva / physiology
  • Oxygen / pharmacology
  • Oxygen Consumption / drug effects
  • Oxygen Consumption / physiology*
  • Temperature
  • Zebrafish / anatomy & histology
  • Zebrafish / growth & development*
  • Zebrafish / metabolism
  • Zebrafish / physiology*


  • Oxygen