Atmospheric oxygen levels affect mudskipper terrestrial performance: implications for early tetrapods.
Published Web Locationhttps://doi.org/10.1093/icb/ict034
The Japanese mudskipper (Periophthalmus modestus), an amphibious fish that possesses many respiratory and locomotive specializations for sojourns onto land, was used as a model to study how changing atmospheric oxygen concentrations during the middle and late Paleozoic Era (400-250 million years ago) may have influenced the emergence and subsequent radiation of the first tetrapods. The effects of different atmospheric oxygen concentrations (hyperoxia = 35%, normoxia = 21%, and hypoxia = 7% O2) on terrestrial performance were tested during exercise on a terrestrial treadmill and during recovery from exhaustive exercise. Endurance and elevated post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC; the immediate O2 debt repaid post-exercise) correlated with atmospheric oxygen concentration indicating that when additional oxygen is available P. modestus can increase oxygen utilization both during and following exercise. The time required post-exercise for mudskippers to return to a resting metabolic rate did not differ between treatments. However, in normoxia, oxygen consumption increased above hyperoxic values 13-20 h post-exercise suggesting a delayed repayment of the incurred oxygen debt. Finally, following exercise, ventilatory movements associated with buccopharyngeal aerial respiration returned to their rest-like pattern more quickly at higher concentrations of oxygen. Taken together, the results of this study show that P. modestus can exercise longer and recover quicker under higher oxygen concentrations. Similarities between P. modestus and early tetrapods suggest that increasing atmospheric oxygen levels during the middle and late Paleozoic allowed for elevated aerobic capacity and improved terrestrial performance, and likely led to an accelerated diversification and expansion of vertebrate life into the terrestrial biosphere.