Physiological and biochemical strategies for withstanding emersion in two galaxiid fishes

Mauricio A. Urbina, Patrick J. Walsh, Jonathan V. Hill, Chris N. Glover

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal Articlepeer-review

14 Citations (Scopus)


The galaxiid fishes of the Southern hemisphere display variable tolerance to aerial exposure. Brown mudfish (Neochanna apoda), for example, pseudoaestivate, inhabiting moist soil for months at a time, whereas inanga (Galaxias maculatus) emerse under unfavourable water conditions, but only for periods of a few hours. This study sought to identify the physiological and biochemical strategies that determine emersion tolerance in these species. Nitrogenous waste excretion was measured before and after an experimental emersion period (14days for mudfish, 6h for inanga). Both species showed significantly elevated ammonia "washout" upon return to water, but no increase in plasma or muscle ammonia. Post-emersion urea levels were elevated in plasma and muscle in both fish, however the extent of the accumulation did not indicate significant de novo urea production. This was supported by the lack of carbamoyl phosphate synthetase activity in tissues. Consequently, mudfish metabolism was examined to determine whether changes in parameters such as oxygen consumption, carbon dioxide excretion, and/or altered metabolic costs (represented by the key ionoregulatory enzyme Na+, K+-ATPase; NKA) could explain emersion tolerance. Oxygen consumption rates, already very low in immersed mudfish, were largely maintained over the course of emersion. Carbon dioxide excretion decreased during emersion, and a small, but significant, decrease in NKA was noted. These data suggest that the extended emersion capacity of mudfish may result from a generally low metabolic rate that is maintained throughout aerial exposure via cutaneous gas exchange, and which limits the production of potentially toxic nitrogenous waste.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)49-58
Number of pages10
JournalComparative Biochemistry and Physiology -Part A : Molecular and Integrative Physiology
Publication statusPublished - Oct. 2014


  • Aerial gas exchange
  • Aestivation
  • Ammonia
  • Galaxiid
  • Lactate
  • Lipid metabolism
  • Mudfish
  • Nitrogen excretion
  • Sodium/potassium ATPase
  • Urea


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