Thermal acclimation leads to variable muscle responses in two temperate labrid fishes [RESEARCH ARTICLE]

Clinton J. Moran, Kamryn E. Jebb, Leksi Travitz, David J. Coughlin, and Shannon P. Gerry

Temperature can be a key abiotic factor in fish distribution, as it impacts most physiological processes. Specifically, temperature can affect locomotor capabilities especially as species are exposed to temperatures nearing their thermal limits. In this study we aimed to understand the effects of temperature on muscle in two labrids that occupy the Northwest Atlantic Ocean. When exposed to cold temperatures in autumn, cunner (Tautogolabrus adspersus) and tautog (Tautoga onitis) go into a state of winter dormancy. Transitions into dormancy vary slightly where tautog will make short migrations to overwintering habitats while cunner overwinter in year-round habitats. To understand how muscle function changes with temperature, we held fish for four weeks at either 5 or 20°C then ran muscle kinetic and workloop experiments at 5, 10 and 20°C. Following experiments, we used immunohistochemistry staining to identify acclimation effects on myosin isoform expression. Muscle taken from warm acclimated cunner performed the best, whereas there were relatively few differences among the other three groups. Cunner acclimated at both temperatures downregulated the myosin heavy chain, suggesting a transition in fiber type from slow-oxidative to fast-glycolytic. This change did not amount to a detectable difference in muscle power production and kinetics. However, overall poor performance at cold temperatures could force these fishes into torpor to overwinter. Tautog, alternatively, retained myosin heavy chains which likely increases locomotor capabilities when making short migrations to overwintering habitats.

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