Numerous studies have examined the effect of temperature on in vivo and in situ cardiovascular function in trout. However, little information exists on cardiac function at temperatures near the trout's upper lethal limit. This study measured routine and maximum in situ cardiac performance in rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) following acclimation to 15, 18 and 22 °C, under conditions of tonic (30 nmol l-1), intermediate (60 nmol l-1) and maximal (200 nmol l-1) adrenergic stimulation. Heart rate increased significantly with both temperature and adrenaline concentration. The Q10 values for heart rate ranged from 1.28 at 30 nmol l-1 adrenaline to 1.36 at 200 nmol l-1 adrenaline. In contrast to heart rate, maximum stroke volume declined by approximately 20 % (from 1.0 to 0.8 ml kg-1) as temperature increased from 15 to 22 °C. This decrease was not alleviated by maximally stimulating the heart with 200 nmol l-1 adrenaline. Because of the equal and opposite effects of increasing temperature on heart rate and stroke volume, maximum cardiac output did not increase between 15 and 22 °C. Maximum power output decreased (by approximately 10-15 %) at all adrenaline concentrations as temperature increased. This reduction reflected a poorer pressure-generating ability at temperatures above 15 °C. These results, in combination with earlier work, suggest (1) that peak cardiac performance occurs around the trout's preferred temperature and well below its upper lethal limit; (2) that the diminished cardiac function concomitant with acclimation to high temperatures was associated with inotropic failure; (3) that Q10 values for cardiac rate functions, other than heart rate per se, have a limited predictive value at temperatures above the trout's preferred temperature; and (4) that heart rate is a poor indicator of cardiac function at temperatures above 15 °C.

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