Cardiovascular control in Antarctic fish

Stuart Egginton, Hamish Campbell, W Davison

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

9 Citations (Scopus)


The capacity for synthesis and plasma levels of stress hormones in species with a range of activity patterns suggest that depressed catecholamine synthesis is typical of notothenioid fishes regardless of life style, although they are able to release extensive stores under conditions of extreme trauma. Cortisol does not appear to be an important primary stress hormone in these species. In general, vascular reactivity shows a modest alpha and beta adrenergic tonus, but with greater potency for cholinergic and serotonergic vasoconstrictor agonists, although a dominance of vasodilatation over vasoconstriction is observed in one species. Vasomotor control mechanisms appear to be primarily a consequence of evolutionary lineage rather than low environmental temperature, but the pattern may be modified according to functional demand. These and other data confirm the cardiovascular system is dominated by cholinergic control: the heart apparently lacks adrenergic innervation, but receives inhibitory parasympathetic input that regulates heart rate (HR) by setting a resting vagal tonus. Oxygen consumption (MO2) determined at rest and varied via specific dynamic action, in intact fish and fish that had undergone bilateral sectioning of the vagus nerve, show that HR is a good predictor Of MO2, and that the major influence on HR is the degree of vagal tone-these fish work by removing the brake rather than applying the accelerator. However, whether these traits actually represent adaptation to the Antarctic environment or merely represent ancestral characteristics and their relative phylogenetic position is at present unclear. (c) 2006 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1115-1130
Number of pages16
JournalDeep-Sea Research. Part 2: Topical Studies in Oceanography
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2006


  • heart rate
  • vagal control
  • telemetry
  • vascular tone
  • catecholamines
  • oxygen consumption


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