The effects of exhausting activity in normoxic (PO2=20.7 kPa) and hypoxic (PO2<2.7 kPa) water on ventilatory, metabolic and acid-base variables were examined in spotted gar (Lepisosteus oculatus) to determine the role of the air-breathing organ in supporting active metabolism and recovery. The level of aquatic hypoxia used effectively eliminated the gills as a site of O2 uptake, forcing the fish to respire as a unimodal air-breather. Swimming duration (until exhaustion) was not significantly different in normoxic and hypoxic water. Blood gas, acid-base, cardiovascular and ventilatory variables were monitored at intervals from 15 min to 24 h post-exercise. Fish survived exhaustive exercise using a combination of anaerobic metabolism and increased ventilation (aerial and aquatic), despite respiratory and metabolic acidoses. The cardiovascular effects of exercise (heart rate and dorsal aortic blood pressure) were minor. The metabolic effects of exercise were similar to those in unimodal water-breathing fish; however, even hypoxic animals recovered from exhaustive exercise by 24 h. Thus, the results of this study show that air breathing in L. oculatus allows gar to exercise to the same extent in normoxic and hypoxic water and enables them to re-establish blood gas and acid-base balance after exhaustive activity even in hypoxic water. <P>

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