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Fish May Be the Best Endurance Athletes of All

Study found they can double, even triple oxygen delivery to all parts of their bodies when under stress

TUESDAY, Oct. 6, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- Fish are superb athletes due to their ability to deliver large amounts of oxygen throughout their body, scientists report.

"Fish exploit a mechanism that is up to 50 times more effective in releasing oxygen to their tissues than that found in humans," said study author Jodie Rummer, a marine biologist from the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies at James Cook University in Australia.

"This is because their hemoglobin, the protein in blood that transports oxygen, is more sensitive to changes in pH than ours, and more than the hemoglobins in other animals," Rummer explained in a center news release.

This means fish can double or even triple oxygen delivery to their tissues when they're under stress, while trying to escape from predators or when they are in water with low oxygen levels.

The study was published Oct. 5 in the journal PLOS ONE.

The researchers used rainbow trout to learn about oxygen delivery in fish, and then compared their findings with human studies.

"This information tells us how fish have adapted this very important process of getting oxygen and delivering it to where it needs to be so that they can live in all kinds of conditions, warm or cold water and water with high or low oxygen levels," Rummer explained.

Study co-author and zoology professor Colin Brauner, from the University of British Columbia in Canada, said in the news release, "This trait may be particularly central to performance in athletic species, such as long distance-swimming salmon or fast-swimming tuna.

"For fish, enhanced oxygen delivery may be one of the most important adaptations of their 400-million-year evolutionary history," he said.

More information

The Encyclopedia of Life has more about fish.

SOURCE: ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, news release, Oct. 5, 2015
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