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Open Access Research article

Oxygen limitation and tissue metabolic potential of the African fish Barbus neumayeri: roles of native habitat and acclimatization

Mery L Martínez1*, Erin L Raynard1, Bernard B Rees2 and Lauren J Chapman34

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Biology, Laurentian University, Sudbury, Ontario, P3E 2C6, Canada

2 Department of Biological Sciences, University of New Orleans, New Orleans, Louisiana 70148, USA

3 Department of Biology, McGill University, 1205 Avenue Docteur Penfield, Montréal, PQ, 3HA 1B1, Canada

4 Wildlife Conservation Society, 185th Street and Southern Boulevard, Bronx, New York, 10460, USA

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BMC Ecology 2011, 11:2  doi:10.1186/1472-6785-11-2

Published: 20 January 2011



Oxygen availability in aquatic habitats is a major environmental factor influencing the ecology, behaviour, and physiology of fishes. This study evaluates the contribution of source population and hypoxic acclimatization of the African fish, Barbus neumayeri, in determining growth and tissue metabolic enzyme activities. Individuals were collected from two sites differing dramatically in concentration of dissolved oxygen (DO), Rwembaita Swamp (annual average DO 1.35 mgO2 L-1) and Inlet Stream West (annual average DO 5.58 mgO2 L-1) in Kibale National Park, Uganda, and reciprocally transplanted using a cage experiment in the field, allowing us to maintain individuals under natural conditions of oxygen, food availability, and flow. Fish were maintained under these conditions for four weeks and sampled for growth rate and the activities of phosphofructokinase (PFK), lactate dehydrogenase (LDH), citrate synthase (CS), and cytochrome c oxidase (CCO) in four tissues, liver, heart, brain, and skeletal muscle.


Acclimatization to the low DO site resulted in lower growth rates, lower activities of the aerobic enzyme CCO in heart, and higher activities of the glycolytic enzyme PFK in heart and skeletal muscle. The activity of LDH in liver tissue was correlated with site of origin, being higher in fish collected from a hypoxic habitat, regardless of acclimatization treatment.


Our results suggest that the influence of site of origin and hypoxic acclimatization in determining enzyme activity differs among enzymes and tissues, but both factors contribute to higher glycolytic capacity and lower aerobic capacity in B. neumayeri under naturally-occurring conditions of oxygen limitation.