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Physiol Biochem Zool. 2008 Nov-Dec;81(6):733-42. doi: 10.1086/592027.

Can phenotypic plasticity facilitate the geographic expansion of the tilapia Oreochromis mossambicus?

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Integrative Physiology, School of Biological Science A08, University of Sydney, New South Wales 2006, Australia.


Climate influences the distribution of organisms because of the thermal sensitivity of biochemical processes. Animals may compensate for the effects of variable temperatures, and plastic responses may facilitate radiation into different climates. The tropical fish Oreochromis mossambicus has radiated into climates that were thought to be thermally unsuitable. Here, we test the hypothesis that thermal acclimation will extend the locomotory and metabolic performance range of O. mossambicus. Juvenile fish were acclimated to 14 degrees, 17 degrees, and 22 degrees C. We measured responses to acclimation at three levels of organization: whole-animal performance (sustained swimming and resting and recovery rates of oxygen consumption), mitochondrial oxygen consumption in caudal muscle, and metabolic enzyme activities in muscle and liver at 12 degrees, 14 degrees, 17 degrees, 22 degrees, and 26 degrees C. Thermal optima of sustained swimming performance (U(crit)) changed significantly with acclimation, but acclimation had no effect on either resting or recovery oxygen consumption. Fish compensated for cold temperatures by upregulating state 3 mitochondrial oxygen consumption and increasing activity of lactate dehydrogenase in the liver. The capacity for phenotypic plasticity in O. mossambicus means that the fish would not be limited by its locomotor performance or metabolic physiology to expand its range into cooler thermal environments from its current distribution.

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