ABSTRACT

Aquatic animals increasingly encounter environmental hypoxia due to climate-related warming and/or eutrophication. Although acute warming typically reduces performance under hypoxia, the ability of organisms to modulate hypoxic performance via thermal acclimation is less understood. Here, we review the literature and ask whether hypoxic performance of aquatic ectotherms improves following warm acclimation. Interpretation of thermal acclimation effects is limited by reliance on data from experiments that are not designed to directly test for beneficial or detrimental effects on hypoxic performance. Most studies have tested hypoxic responses exclusively at test temperatures matching organisms' acclimation temperatures, precluding the possibility of distinguishing between acclimation and acute thermal effects. Only a few studies have applied appropriate methodology to identify beneficial thermal acclimation effects on hypoxic performance, i.e. acclimation to different temperatures prior to determining hypoxic responses at standardised test temperatures. These studies reveal that acute warming predominantly impairs hypoxic performance, whereas warm acclimation tends to be either beneficial or have no effect. If this generalises, we predict that warm-acclimated individuals in some species should outperform non-acclimated individuals under hypoxia. However, acclimation seems to only partially offset acute warming effects; therefore, aquatic ectotherms will probably display overall reduced hypoxic performance in the long term. Drawing on the appropriate methodology, future studies can quantify the ability of organisms to modulate hypoxic performance via (reversible) thermal acclimation and unravel the underlying mechanisms. Testing whether developmental acclimation and multigenerational effects allow for a more complete compensation is essential to allow us to predict species' resilience to chronically warmer, hypoxic environments.

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