We measured red cell space with 51Cr-labeled red blood cells, and dextran space with 500 kDa fluorescein-isothiocyanate-labeled dextran (FITC-dextran), in two groups of yellowfin tuna (Thunnus albacares). Red cell space was 13.8+/-0.7 ml kg-1 (mean +/- s.e.m.) Assuming a whole-body hematocrit equal to the hematocrit measured at the ventral aortic sampling site and no significant sequestering of 51Cr-labeled red blood cells by the spleen, blood volume was 46. 7+/-2.2 ml kg-1. This is within the range reported for most other teleosts (30-70 ml kg-1), but well below that previously reported for albacore (Thunnus alalunga, 82-197 ml kg-1). Plasma volume within the primary circulatory system (calculated from the 51Cr-labeled red blood cell data) was 32.9+/-2.3 ml kg-1. Dextran space was 37.0+/-3.7 ml kg-1. Because 500 kDa FITC-dextran appeared to remain within the vascular space, these data imply that the volume of the secondary circulatory system of yellowfin tuna is small, and its exact volume is not measurable by our methods. Although blood volume is not exceptional, circulation time (blood volume/cardiac output) is clearly shorter in yellowfin tuna than in other active teleosts. In a 1 kg yellowfin tuna, circulation time is approximately 0.4 min (47 ml kg-1/115 ml min-1 kg-1) compared with 1. 3 min (46 ml kg-1/35 ml min-1 kg-1) in yellowtail (Seriola quinqueradiata) and 1.9 min (35 ml kg-1/18 ml min-1 kg-1) in rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss). In air-breathing vertebrates, high metabolic rates are necessarily correlated with short circulation times. Our data are the first to imply that a similar relationship occurs in fishes.

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