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Physiol Biochem Zool. 2003 Sep-Oct;76(5):644-51.

Environmental hypoxia does not constrain the diurnal depth distribution of free-swimming Nautilus pompilius.

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Department of Zoology, University of Cambridge, Cambridge CB2 3EJ, England.


The behaviour of Nautilus pompilius swimming freely in a controlled mesocosm (tower tank, 4 m diameter x 10.5 m deep) was monitored using ultrasonic depth telemetry. Initially depths were monitored in water equilibrated with air. Then the bottom 3.5 m were rendered hypoxic (Po(2) <20 mmHg) and depths monitored again. A thermocline at 7-m depth (17 degrees C below, 20 degrees C above) prevented mixing with the top, normoxic water. Mean depth was significantly greater during the light phase (8.9 m) of the 12L : 12D photoperiod than the dark phase (5.6 m), but this was not affected by hypoxia. During the light phase animals preferred the bottom 2.5 m of the tank but showed no specific preference for any depth range during the dark phase. Hypoxia did not alter these patterns of depth preference, though one animal made regular excursions toward normoxic water during the light phase. Vertical swimming activity was almost twofold greater during the dark phase and was not affected by hypoxia. These data suggest that, at least over the short term, Nautilus are not constrained from entering areas with low dissolved oxygen. This hypoxia tolerance may be attributed to the large onboard oxygen stores and suppressed metabolism during hypoxia.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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