Author(s): Nilsson GE
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Abstract While a large respiratory surface area is good for gas exchange, it also poses several problems, including energetically unfavorable fluxes of water and ions. As a result, fishes appear to have a respiratory surface area that is matched to their oxygen demands. When faced with changes in their need for oxygen uptake, e.g. through altered physical activity or altered ambient oxygen levels, fishes have long been known to make two different adjustments: (1) to change the water flow over the gills or (2) to change the blood flow inside the gills. It has recently become clear that at least some teleosts have a third option: to reversibly remodel the gill morphology. Studies have shown that the lamellae of crucian carp Carassius carassius gills are embedded in a cell mass during normoxic conditions or at low temperature, while much of this cell mass dies off in hypoxia and at higher temperatures, thereby exposing a much larger respiratory surface area. Gill remodeling has subsequently been seen in two more cyprinids and in the mangrove killifish Kryptolebias marmoratus. In the latter case it appears to be an adaptation to periods of air exposure. Gill remodeling in response to changing respiratory requirements could be an ancient mechanism, occurring in many more teleosts than presently known. It is tempting to suggest that gill remodeling has been overlooked in many fishes, either because it is relatively subtle in some species, or because fishes are often kept at the warmer end of their temperature range where they need fully protruding lamellae.
This article was published in J Exp Biol
and referenced in Journal of Environmental & Analytical Toxicology