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J Comp Physiol B. 2011 Apr;181(3):361-71. doi: 10.1007/s00360-010-0532-4. Epub 2010 Nov 18.

Anoxic survival of the Pacific hagfish (Eptatretus stoutii).

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


It is not known how the Pacific hagfish (Eptatretus stoutii) can survive extended periods of anoxia. The present study used two experimental approaches to examine energy use during and following anoxic exposure periods of different durations (6, 24 and 36 h). By measuring oxygen consumption prior to anoxic exposure, we detected a circadian rhythm, with hagfish being active during night and showing a minimum routine oxygen consumption (RMR) during the daytime. By measuring the excess post-anoxic oxygen consumption (EPAOC) after 6 and 24 h it was possible to mathematically account for RMR being maintained even though heme stores of oxygen would have been depleted by the animal's metabolism during the first hours of anoxia. However, EPAOC after 36 h of anoxia could not account for RMR being maintained. Measurements of tissue glycogen disappearance and lactate appearance during anoxia showed that the degree of glycolysis and the timing of its activation varied among tissues. Yet, neither measurement could account for the RMR being maintained during even the 6-h anoxic period. Therefore, two independent analyses of the metabolic responses of hagfish to anoxia exposure suggest that hagfish utilize metabolic rate suppression as part of the strategy for longer-term anoxia survival.

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