Interspecific Differences in the Metabolic Rate, Gill Dimension and Hematology of Fish in an Amazonian Floodplain Lake

Wallice P. Duncan


It has been hypothesized that respiratory physiology in fish is closely associated with ecological traits. Therefore, data on gill morphometrics (lamellae frequency, gill surface area and barrier thickness), metabolic rate (oxygen consumption) and blood oxygen capacity (hematology) were analyzed in several fish, including benthic, bentho-pelagic and pelagic species collected in an Amazon floodplain lake. Similar to other teleostean species, the 2nd and 3rd gill arches have numerous large filaments in both pelagic and benthic species, as these characteristics tend to increase the gill surface area. A large gill area (4 to 7 cm2 g-1, mass-specific) is associated with a high (100 to 300 mg O2 h-1 kg-1) routine oxygen consumption rate and has been observed in active pelagic swimmers, such as Cichla monoculus and Pygocentrus nattereri. Benthic dwelling fish (e.g., Pterygoplichthys pardalis and Sorubim lima) have low metabolic rates (20 to 50 mg O2 h-1 kg-1), small gill dimensions (2 to 3 cm2 g-1, mass-specific), low hemoglobin levels (3 to 5 g dL-1), reduced numbers of circulating red blood cells (1 to 2 Í106 mm-3) and low hematocrit values (25 to 35%) compared to pelagic species. These results demonstrated that pelagic fish have high routine oxygen consumption rates compatible with their large gill surface area and high blood oxygen capacity, whereas benthic species have low metabolic rates, small gill dimensions and reduced blood oxygen capacity.

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