Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

Survival value of fever in fish


THE phenomenon of behavioural fever, manifested as an increase in preferred temperature following injection of live or killed bacteria, or other pyrogenic substances, has been demonstrated in bony fishes1–3, amphibians4,5, reptiles5–10, and mammals11,12. Ectothermic vertebrates, including some newborn mammals11, are unable to increase their body temperatures much above ambient by physiological means, and so are largely limited to behavioural thermoregulation by selecting favourable temperatures in their environment. The behavioural febrile response of a lizard, Dipsosaurus dorsalis, has been shown to have adaptive value5,8–10 in conferring increased survival during infection by the Gram-negative bacterium Aeromonas hydrophila. A. hydrophila is pathogenic to bony fishes, amphibians and reptiles, causing haemorrhagic septicaemia. All three classes show similar (1–5 °C) elevations in preferred temperature in response to injection of this bacterium1–10. The absolute preferred temperatures, however, both normal and febrile, differ considerably among these vertebrates. The preferred temperatures of lizards such as D. dorsalis (about 40 °C) are quickly lethal to most fishes and amphibians. We report here that fever significantly enhances survival of goldfish, Carassius auratus, at febrile temperatures about 10 °C lower than those of D. dorsails, after injection with live A. hydrophila.

This is a preview of subscription content

Access options

Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.


All prices are NET prices.


  1. Reynolds, W. W., Casterlin, M. E. & Covert, J. B. Nature 259, 41–42 (1976).

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  2. Reynolds, W. W. & Covert, J. B. in Drugs, Biogenic Amines and Body Temperature (Karger, Basle, in the press).

  3. Reynolds, W. W. Comp. Biochem. Physiol. (in the press).

  4. Casterlin, M. E. & Reynolds, W. W. Life Sci. 20, 593–596 (1977).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  5. Kluger, M. J., Bernheim, H. A., Vaughn, L. K., Foster, M. A. & D'Alecy, L. G. in Drugs, Biogenic Amines and Body Temperature (Karger, Basle, in the press).

  6. Bernheim, H. A., Vaughn, L. K. & Kluger, M. J. Fedn. Proc. 33, 457 (1974).

    Google Scholar 

  7. Vaughn, L. K., Bernheim, H. A. & Kluger, M. J. Nature, 252, 473–474 (1974).

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  8. Kluger, M. J., Ringler, D. H. & Anver, M. R. Science 188, 166–168 (1975).

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  9. Kluger, M. J. Nat. Hist. 85, 70–75 (1976).

    Google Scholar 

  10. Bernheim, H. A. & Kluger, M. J. Science 193, 237–239 (1976); Am. J. Physiol. 231, 198–203 (1976); J. Physiol. (in the press).

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  11. Satinoff, E., McEwen, G. N. Jr & Williams, B. A. Science 193, 1139–1140 (1976).

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  12. Crawshaw, L. I. & Stitt, J. T. J. Physiol. 244, 197–206 (1975).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  13. Reynolds, W. W., McCauley, R. W., Casterlin, M. E. & Crawshaw, L. I. Comp. Biochem. Physiol. 54A, 461–463 (1976).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  14. Reynolds, W. W. J. Fish. Res. Bd Can. 34, 300–304 (1977).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  15. Reynolds, W. W. & Casterlin, M. E. Thermal Ecology II (eds Esch, G. W. & McFarlane, R. W.), 185–190 (ERDA Symp. Ser CONF-750425, US Natl Tech. Info. Serv., Springfield, Virginia, 1976).

    Google Scholar 

  16. Fry, F. E. J. Univ. Toronto Stud., Biol. Ser. 55 (1947).

  17. Ferguson, R. G. J. Fish. Res. Bd Can. 15, 607–624 (1958).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  18. Avtalion, R. R., Wojdani, A., Malik, Z., Shahrabani, R. & Duczyminer, M. Curr. Top. microbiol. Immunol. 61, 1–35 (1973).

    CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  19. Hildemann, W. H. Am. Natur. 96, 195–204 (1962).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  20. Amend, D. F. J. Fish. Res. Bd Can. 27, 265–270 (1970); 33, 1059–1066 (1976).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  21. Peterson, R. H. J. Fish. Res. Bd Can. 33, 1722–1730 (1976).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

COVERT, J., REYNOLDS, W. Survival value of fever in fish. Nature 267, 43–45 (1977).

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI:

Further reading


By submitting a comment you agree to abide by our Terms and Community Guidelines. If you find something abusive or that does not comply with our terms or guidelines please flag it as inappropriate.


Quick links

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing