First Advisor

Jason E. Podrabsky

Date of Publication

Fall 1-1-2012

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (M.S.) in Biology






Killifishes -- Embryos -- Effect of temperature on, Killifishes -- Embryos -- Development, Anoxemia -- Pathophysiology



Physical Description

1 online resource (vii, 46 p.) : ill. (some col.)


Little is known about the physiology or biochemistry of hypoxia (reduced levels of oxygen) tolerance during development in vertebrate embryos. In most species, relatively brief bouts of severe hypoxia are lethal or teratogenic. An exception to such hypoxia intolerance is the annual killifish Austrofundulus limnaeus, in which populations persist in hypoxic environments. This species inhabits seasonal ponds in Venezuela, surviving through the dry season in the form of diapausing embryos. Embedded in the pond sediment, embryos of A. limnaeus are routinely exposed to hypoxia and anoxia (lack of oxygen) as part of their normal development. Here, we exposed embryos to various levels of PO2 (21.2, 15.6, 10.8, 8.4, 6.1, 3.6, and 2.2 kPa) at two different temperatures (25°C and 30°C) to study the effects on developmental rate and heart rate. We also measured enzyme activity and quantified DNA content of individual embryos to compare differences among the varying levels of hypoxia and temperature. Hypoxia caused a significant decline in developmental rate and caused a stage-specific decline in heart rate. Higher temperature caused an increase in the developmental rate for those embryos incubated at PO2 of 6.1 kPa and greater. Temperature had a negative effect by hindering development below a PO2 of 6.1 kPa. Total embryonic DNA content was reduced at low partial pressures (15.6, 10.8, 8.4, 6.1, 3.6, and 2.2 kPa) of oxygen. Citrate synthase, lactate dehydrogenase, and phosphoenolpyruvate carboxykinase were all down-regulated indicating a complete lack of enzymatic metabolic compensation to combat reduced oxygen levels.


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