Ocean acidification and seasonal temperature extremes combine to impair the thermal physiology of a sub-Antarctic fish

Graphical abstract


  • Climate change stressors impaired the thermal physiology of Eleginops maclovinus.
  • Summer temperature and near-future pCO2 levels reduced its thermal tolerance.
  • Concomitant reductions occurred in fish aerobic scope at near-future pCO2.
  • An oxidative stress condition was detected in the gills and liver tissues.


To predict the potential impacts of climate change on marine organisms, it is critical to understand how multiple stressors constrain the physiology and distribution of species. We evaluated the effects of seasonal changes in seawater temperature and near-future ocean acidification (OA) on organismal and sub-organismal traits associated with the thermal performance of Eleginops maclovinus, a sub-Antarctic notothenioid species with economic importance to sport and artisanal fisheries in southern South America. Juveniles were exposed to mean winter and summer sea surface temperatures (4 and 10 °C) at present-day and near-future pCO2 levels (~500 and 1800 μatm). After a month, the Critical Thermal maximum and minimum (CTmax, CTmin) of fish were measured using the Critical Thermal Methodology and the aerobic scope of fish was measured based on the difference between their maximal and standard rates determined from intermittent flow respirometry. Lipid peroxidation and the antioxidant capacity were also quantified to estimate the oxidative damage potentially caused to gill and liver tissue. Although CTmax and CTmin were higher in individuals acclimated to summer versus winter temperatures, the increase in CTmax was minimal in juveniles exposed to the near-future compared to present-day pCO2 levels (there was a significant interaction between temperature and pCO2 on CTmax). The reduction in the thermal tolerance range under summer temperatures and near-future OA conditions was associated with a reduction in the aerobic scope observed at the elevated pCO2 level. Moreover, an oxidative stress condition was detected in the gill and liver tissues. Thus, chronic exposure to OA and the current summer temperatures pose limits to the thermal performance of juvenile E. maclovinus at the organismal and sub-organismal levels, making this species vulnerable to projected climate-driven warming.

Lattuca M. E., Vanella F. A., Malanga G., Rubel M. D., Manríquez P. H., Torres R., Alter K., Marras S., Peck M. A., Domenici P. & Fernández D. A., 2022. Ocean acidification and seasonal temperature extremes combine to impair the thermal physiology of a sub-Antarctic fish. Science of the Total Environment: 159284. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2022.159284. Article.

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