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Atlantic salmon show capability for cardiac acclimation to warm temperatures

Nature Communications volume 5, Article number: 4252 (2014) | Download Citation


Increases in environmental temperature predicted to result from global warming have direct effects on performance of ectotherms. Moreover, cardiac function has been observed to limit the tolerance to high temperatures. Here we show that two wild populations of Atlantic salmon originating from northern and southern extremes of its European distribution have strikingly similar cardiac responses to acute warming when acclimated to common temperatures, despite different local environments. Although cardiac collapse starts at 21–23 °C with a maximum heart rate of ~\n150 beats per min (bpm) for 12 °C-acclimated fish, acclimation to 20 °C considerably raises this temperature (27.5 °C) and maximum heart rate (~\n200 bpm). Only minor population differences exist and these are consistent with the warmer habitat of the southern population. We demonstrate that the considerable cardiac plasticity discovered for Atlantic salmon is largely independent of natural habitat, and we propose that observed cardiac plasticity may aid salmon to cope with global warming.

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This work was supported by grants from the Research Council of Norway to G.E.N., Ø.Ø. and C.S.C., the Academy of Finland to K.A. and by NSERC Discovery grants to A.P.F. A.P.F. holds a Canada Research Chair in Fish Physiology, Culture and Conservation.

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Author notes

    • Katja Anttila
    •  & Christine S. Couturier

    These authors are the co-first authors


  1. Department of Biology, Laboratory of Animal Physiology, University of Turku, FI-20014 Turku, Finland

    • Katja Anttila
  2. Section for Physiology and Cell Biology, Department of Biosciences, University of Oslo, PO Box 1066, N-0316 Oslo, Norway

    • Christine S. Couturier
    •  & Göran E. Nilsson
  3. Department of Animal and Aquacultural Sciences, Norwegian University of Life Sciences, PO Box 5003, N-1432 Ås, Norway

    • Øyvind Øverli
  4. Natural History Museum, University of Oslo, PO Box 1172 Blindern, NO-0318 Oslo, Norway

    • Arild Johnsen
    •  & Gunnhild Marthinsen
  5. Department of Zoology and Faculty of Land and Food Systems, University of British Columbia, 6270 University Boulevard, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada V6T 1Z4

    • Anthony P. Farrell


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K.A. performed the heart rate measurements and analysed the data from these measurements. C.S.C. set up the population and acclimation groups and analysed their genetic structure in collaboration with A.J. and G.M. G.E.N. and Ø.Ø. provided financing and infrastructure at the University of Oslo. G.E.N., A.P.F. and Ø.Ø. initiated and provided the overall direction of the study and participated in writing the manuscript with input from particularly K.A. and C.S.C.

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The authors declare no competing financial interests.

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Correspondence to Katja Anttila.

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