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Selection for Upper Thermal Tolerance in Rainbow Trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss Walbaum)

Mar 14, 2015


Rainbow Trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss Walbaum) in southern Western Australia have undergone passive selection for over 19 generations to survive high water temperatures. Based on the conceptual model of ‘oxygen- and capacity-limited thermal tolerance’, we measured critical thermal maximum (CTmax), maximum heart rate (fH,max) and aerobic scope to test the hypothesis that these rainbow trout can maintain aerobic scope at high temperatures through a robust cardiac performance supporting oxygen delivery. Across five family groups CTmax averaged 29.0±0.02°C. Aerobic scope was maximized at 15.8±0.3°C (Topt), while the upper pejus temperature (Tpej, set at 90% of maximum aerobic scope) was 19.9±0.3°C. Although aerobic scope decreased at temperatures above Topt, the value at 25°C remained well over 40% of the maximum. Furthermore, pharmacologically stimulated fH,max increased with temperature, reaching a peak value between 23.5±0.4 and 24.0±0.4°C (Tmax) for three family groups. The Arrhenius breakpoint temperature (TAB) for fH,max was 20.3±0.3 to 20.7±0.4°C, while the average Q10 breakpoint temperature (TQB, when the incremental Q10<1.6) for fH,max was 21.6±0.2 to 22.0±0.4°C. Collectively, fH,max progressively became less temperature dependent beyond 20°C (TAB and TQB), which coincides with the upper Tpej for aerobic scope. Although upper thermal performance indices for both aerobic scope and fH,max were compared among family groups in this population, appreciable differences were not evident. Compared with other populations of rainbow trout, the present assessment is consistent with the prediction that this strain has undergone selection and shows the ability to tolerate higher water temperatures.


Zhongqi Chen, Michael Snow, Craig Lawrence, Anthony Church, Shawn Narum, Robert Devlin, and Anthony Farrell


Chen, Z., M. Snow, C.S. Lawrence, A.R. Church, S.R. Narum, R.H. Devlin, and A.P. Farrell. 2015. Selection for upper thermal tolerance in Rainbow Trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss Walbaum). Journal Experimental Biology 218(5):803-812. Online at



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Journal Article