Swimming performance in Atlantic Cod (Gadus morhua) following long-term (4-12 months) acclimation to elevated sea water PCO2

Anthropogenic CO2 emissions lead to chronically elevated seawater CO2 partial pressures (hypercapnia). The induced ocean acidification will very likely be a relevant factor shaping future marine environments. CO2 exposure concomitantly challenges the animal’s capacity of acid-base and ionic regulation as well as the ability to maintain energy metabolism and calcification. Under conditions of acute hypercapnia, numerous studies have revealed a broad range of tolerance levels displayed by various marine taxa. Thus, it is well known that, in contrast to many marine invertebrates, most teleost fish are able to fully compensate acid-base disturbances in short-term experiments (hours to several days).

In order to determine whether marine fish are able to preserve aerobic scope following long-term incubation to elevated CO2, we exposed two groups of Atlantic cod for 4 and 12 months to 0.3 and 0.6 kPa PCO2 respectively. Measurements of standard and active metabolic rates, critical swimming speeds and aerobic scope of long-term incubated cod showed no deviations from control values, indicating that locomotory performance is not compromised by the different levels of chronic hypercapnia. While the maintenance of high activity levels is supported by a 2-fold increased Na+/K+ ATPase protein expression and 2-fold elevated Na+/K+ ATPase activity in the 12 month incubated fish (0.6 kPa PCO2), no such elevation in Na+/K+ ATPase activity could be observed in the group treated with 0.3 kPa PCO2. Owing to the relevance of Na+/K+ ATPase as a general indicator for ion regulatory capacity, these results point at an adjustment of enzymatic activity to cope with the CO2 induced acid-base load at 0.6 kPa PCO2 while under milder hypercapnic conditions the ‘standard’ Na+/K+ ATPase capacity might still be sufficient to maintain acid-base status.


Melzner, F., Göbel, S., Langenbuch, M., Gutowska, M.A., Pörtner, H.-O. & Lucassen, M., in press. Swimming performance in Atlantic Cod (Gadus morhua)following long-term (4-12 months) acclimation to elevated sea water PCO2. Aquatic Toxicology. Article (Subscription required).

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