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Physiol Biochem Zool. 2008 Jul-Aug;81(4):389-401. doi: 10.1086/589109.

Swimming performance and energetics as a function of temperature in killifish Fundulus heteroclitus.

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Department of Zoology, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia V6T 1Z4, Canada.


Populations of the common killifish Fundulus heteroclitus are found along a latitudinal temperature gradient in habitats with high thermal variability. The objectives of this study were to assess the effects of temperature and population of origin on killifish swimming performance (assessed as critical swimming speed, U(crit)). Acclimated fish from northern and southern killifish populations demonstrated a wide zone (from 7 degrees to 33 degrees C) over which U(crit) showed little change with temperature, with performance declining significantly only at lower temperatures. Although we observed significant differences in swimming performance between a northern and a southern population of killifish in one experiment, with northern fish having an approximately 1.5-fold-greater U(crit) than southern fish across all acclimation temperatures, we were unable to replicate this finding in other populations or collection years, and performance was consistently high across all populations and at both low (7 degrees C) and high (23 degrees C) acclimation temperatures. The poor swimming performance of southern killifish from a single collection year was correlated with low muscle [glycogen] rather than with other indicators of fuel stores or body condition. Killifish acclimated to 18 degrees C and acutely challenged at temperatures of 5 degrees , 18 degrees , 25 degrees , or 34 degrees C showed modest thermal sensitivity of U(crit) between 18 degrees and 34 degrees C, with performance declining substantially at 5 degrees C. Thus, much of the zone of relative thermal insensitivity of swimming performance is intrinsic in this species rather than acquired as a result of acclimation. These data suggest that killifish are broadly tolerant of changing temperatures, whether acute or chronic, and demonstrate little evidence of local adaptation in endurance swimming performance in populations from different thermal habitats.

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