Antarctic teleosts with and without hemoglobin behaviorally mitigate deleterious effects of acute environmental warming

Iskander I. Ismailov*, Jordan B. Scharping, Iraida E. Andreeva, Michael J. Friedlander

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Recent studies forecast that many ectothermic animals, especially aquatic stenotherms, may not be able to thrive or even survive predicted climate change. These projections, however, generally do not call much attention to the role of behavior, an essential thermoregulatory mechanism of many ectotherms. Here we characterize species-specific locomotor and respiratory responses to acute ambient warming in two highly stenothermic Antarctic Notothenioid fishes, one of which (Chaenocephalus aceratus) lacks hemoglobin and appears to be less tolerant to thermal stress as compared to the other (Notothenia coriiceps), which expresses hemoglobin. At the onset of ambient warming, both species perform distinct locomotor maneuvers that appear to include avoidance reactions. In response to unavoidable progressive hyperthermia, fishes demonstrate a range of species-specific maneuvers, all of which appear to provide some mitigation of the deleterious effects of obligatory thermoconformation and to compensate for increasing metabolic demand by enhancing the efficacy of branchial respiration. As temperature continues to rise, Chaenocephalus aceratus supplements these behaviors with intensive pectoral fin fanning which may facilitate cutaneous respiration through its scaleless integument, and Notothenia coriiceps manifests respiratory-locomotor coupling during repetitive startle-like maneuvers which may further augment gill ventilation. The latter behaviors, found only in Notothenia coriiceps, have highly stereotyped appearance resembling Fixed Action Pattern sequences. Altogether, this behavioral flexibility could contribute to the reduction of the detrimental effects of acute thermal stress within a limited thermal range. In an ecologically relevant setting, this may enable efficient thermoregulation of fishes by habitat selection, thus facilitating their resilience in persistent environmental change.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere0252359
JournalPloS one
Issue number11 November
StatePublished - Nov 2021
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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