Respiratory responses to progressive hypoxia in the Amazonian oscar, Astronotus ocellatus

Graham R. Scott, Chris M. Wood, Katherine A. Sloman, Fathima I. Iftikar, Gudrun De Boeck, Vera M.F. Almeida-Val, Adalberto L. Val

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

51 Scopus citations


This study determined the respiratory responses to progressive hypoxia in oscar, an extremely hypoxia-tolerant Amazonian cichlid. Oscar depressed oxygen consumption rates (over(M, ̇)O2), beginning at a critical O2 tension (Pcrit) of 46 Torr, to only 14% of normoxic rates at 10 Torr. Total ventilation (over(V, ̇)w) increased up to 4-fold, entirely due to a rise in ventilatory stroke volume (no change in ventilatory frequency), and water convection requirement (over(V, ̇)w / over(M, ̇)O2) increased substantially (up to 15-fold). Gill O2 extraction fell steadily, from 60% down to 40%. Although O2 transfer factor (an index of gill O2 diffusion capacity) increased transiently in moderate hypoxia, it decreased at 10 Torr, which may have caused the increased expired-arterial PO2 difference. Venous PO2 was always very low (≤7 Torr). Anaerobic metabolism made a significant contribution to ATP supply, indicated by a 3-fold increase in plasma lactate that resulted in an uncompensated metabolic acidosis. Respiration of isolated gill cells was not inhibited until below 5 Torr; because gill water PO2 always exceeded this value, hypoxic ion flux arrest in oscars [Wood et al., Am. J. Physiol. Reg. Integr. Comp. Physiol. 292, R2048-R2058, 2007] is probably not caused by O2 limitation in ionocytes. We conclude that metabolic depression and tolerance of anaerobic bi-products, rather than a superior capacity for O2 supply, allow oscar to thrive in extreme hypoxia in the Amazon.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)109-116
Number of pages8
JournalRespiratory Physiology and Neurobiology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jul 31 2008


  • Breathing
  • Cell respiration
  • Fish
  • Gas exchange
  • Gills
  • Metabolic suppression

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine
  • Neuroscience(all)


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