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Proc Biol Sci. 2004 Feb 7;271 Suppl 3:S30-3.

Hypoxia in paradise: widespread hypoxia tolerance in coral reef fishes.

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Division of General Physiology, Department of Biology, University of Oslo, PO Box 1051, N-0316 Oslo, Norway.


Using respirometry, we examined the hypoxia tolerance of 31 teleost fish species (seven families) inhabiting coral reefs at a 2-5 m depth in the lagoon at Lizard Island (Great Barrier Reef, Australia). All fishes studied maintained their rate of oxygen consumption down to relatively severe hypoxia (20-30% air saturation). Indeed, most fishes appeared unaffected by hypoxia until the oxygen level fell below 10% of air saturation. This, hitherto unrecognized, hypoxia tolerance among coral reef fishes could reflect adaptations to nocturnal hypoxia in tide pools. It may also be needed to enable fishes to reside deep within branching coral at night to avoid predation. Widespread hypoxia tolerance in a habitat with such an extreme biodiversity as coral reefs indicate that there is a wealth of hypoxia related adaptations to be discovered in reef fishes.

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