Oxygen limitation fails to explain upper chronic thermal limits and the temperature size rule in mayflies

350 210 Stroud Water Research Center

Funk, D.H., B.W. Sweeney, and J.K. Jackson. 2021. Journal of Experimental Biology 224: jeb233338.


An inability to adequately meet tissue oxygen demands has been proposed as an important factor setting upper thermal limits in ectothermic invertebrates (especially aquatic species) as well as explaining the observed decline in adult size with increased rearing temperature during the immature stages (a phenomenon known as the Temperature Size Rule, or TSR). We tested this by rearing three aquatic insects (the mayflies Neocloeon triangulifer and two species of the Cloeon dipterum complex) through their entire larval life under a range of temperature and oxygen concentrations. Hyperoxia did not extend upper thermal limits, nor did it prevent the loss of size or fertility experienced near upper chronic thermal limits. At moderate temperatures, the TSR pattern was observed under conditions of hyperoxia, normoxia, and hypoxia, suggesting little or no influence of oxygen on this trend. However, for a given rearing temperature, adults were smaller and less fecund under hypoxia due to a lowering of growth rates. These mayflies greatly increased the size of their gills in response to lower dissolved oxygen concentrations but not under oxygen-saturated conditions over a temperature range yielding the classic TSR response. Using ommatidium diameter as a proxy for cell size we found the classic TSR pattern observed under moderate temperature conditions was due primarily to a change in the number of cells rather than cell size. We conclude overall that a failure to meet tissue oxygen demands is not a viable hypothesis for explaining either the chronic thermal limit or TSR pattern in these species.