Coping with aquatic hypoxia: How the plainfin midshipman (Porichthys notatus) tolerates the intertidal zone

Paul M. Craig, John L. Fitzpatrick, Patrick J. Walsh, Chris M. Wood, Grant B. McClelland

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Although plainfin midshipman (Porichthys notatus) are primarily known for their alternative reproductive tactics, and the dimorphic male subtypes, in which Type-I males demonstrate parental investment and mate attraction, and Type-II males 'sneak' fertilization and show no investment after fertilization, little is known about the physiology and tolerance to low aquatic oxygen while nesting in the intertidal zone. In May 2007, females and Type-I and Type-II males were collected, and in June 2009, only Type-I males were collected from nest sites on the coast of Vancouver Island, British Columbia. In the 2007 season, an initial assessment of hypoxia tolerance and nest parameters was recorded for the three subtypes of midshipman. Historical evidence indicates that Type-I males remain on the nest for prolonged periods, and our results suggest they can cope with repeated bouts of aquatic hypoxia by elevating their hematocrit and tolerating high lactate levels. The 2009 season was directed at examining the aquatic hypoxia tolerance of only the Type-I male. Hypoxic (~15 % air saturated water) Type-I males had oxygen consumption rates at ~12 % of the normoxic control (~100 % air saturated water) and a Pcrit, the critical oxygen tension, when a fish switches from oxyregulator to oxyconformer, could not be determined; an indication that these fish are solely oxyconformers. With prolonged exposure to aquatic hypoxia, Type-I males displayed significant elevations in plasma and tissue lactate (heart), tissue glucose (liver), and a depression in gill Na+/K+ATPase and catalase activities. Results suggest that male Type-I midshipman survival in the intertidal zone is enhanced by metabolic depression and tolerance to anaerobic byproducts.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)163-172
Number of pages10
JournalEnvironmental Biology of Fishes
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Aquatic hypoxia
  • Intertidal
  • Marine
  • Plainfin midshipman

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Aquatic Science
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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