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Biol Lett. 2007 Apr 22;3(2):165-8.

Genetically enhanced growth causes increased mortality in hypoxic environments.

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  • 1Norwegian Institute for Nature Research, Tungasletta 2, 7485 Trondheim, Norway.


Rapid growth and development are associated with several fitness-related benefits. Yet, organisms usually grow more slowly than their physiological maximum, suggesting that rapid growth may carry costs. Here we use coho salmon (Oncorhynchus kisutch) eggs of wild and transgenic genotypes to test whether rapid growth causes reduced tolerance to low levels of oxygen (hypoxia). Eggs were exposed to four different durations of hypoxia, and survival and growth were recorded until the end of the larval stage. Survival rates decreased with increasing duration of hypoxia, but this decrease was most pronounced for the transgenic group. Larval mass was also negatively affected by hypoxia; however, transgenic genotypes were significantly larger than wild genotypes at the end of the larval stage. Oxygen can be a limiting factor for survival and development in a wide range of organisms, particularly during the egg stage. Thus, the reduced ability of fast-growing genotypes to cope with low oxygen levels identified in the present study may represent a general constraint on evolution of rapid growth across taxa.

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