Hypoxia but not shy-bold phenotype mediates thermal preferences in a threatened freshwater fish, Notropis percobromus

Eva C. Enders*, Alexander J. Wall, Jon Christian Svendsen

*Corresponding author for this work

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For ectothermic animals, ambient temperature strongly influences developmental growth rate and individual fitness. While many ectotherms live in environments that are spatially hetero-thermal, the coupling between behavioural phenotypes (e.g., shy or bold behaviour) and thermal preferences remains uncertain. Relative to shy counterparts, bolder phenotypes may exert higher preference for ambient temperatures that are closer to their thermal optimum, thereby accelerating development. In addition, ectotherms should select colder temperatures in low oxygen conditions (hypoxia) according to the oxygen- and capacity-limited thermal tolerance (OCLTT) hypothesis. Using wild caught carmine shiner (Notropis percobromus), this study examined thermoregulatory behaviour in individuals exhibiting consistent behavioural phenotypes along the shy-bold continuum and between ecologically relevant normal oxygen concentration (normoxic) and hypoxic treatments. Furthermore, the behaviour observed in the laboratory was compared to environmental data from the natal stream. Results demonstrated that individual shy-bold behavioural phenotype was consistent before and after a simulated aerial predator attack, indicating consistency of behaviour across situations. Individual preferred and avoidance temperatures varied substantially, but were unrelated to shy-bold behavioural phenotypes. In contrast, individual preferred and maximum avoidance temperatures were significantly reduced in hypoxia, consistent with the OCLTT hypothesis. These findings might indicate suppressed development rates in hypoxia, not only by the limited oxygen for aerobic metabolism, but also by the preference for colder water in hypoxia. Furthermore, the tolerated thermal ranges were reduced in hypoxia. Using test conditions confirmed by field data, our study demonstrates the strong influence of oxygen availability on thermoregulatory behaviours and preferences in aquatic environments.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Thermal Biology
Pages (from-to)479-487
Publication statusPublished - 2019


  • Boldness
  • Environmental stress
  • Hypoxia
  • Phenotypic variation
  • Thermoregulatory behaviour
  • Temperature

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