Welsh Christina J.

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Christina J.

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  • Article
    Oxygen supply capacity breathes new life into critical oxygen partial pressure (Pcrit)
    (The Company of Biologists, 2021-04-30) Seibel, Brad A. ; Andres, Alyssa ; Birk, Matthew A. ; Burns, Alexandra L. ; Shaw, C. Tracy ; Timpe, Alexander W. ; Welsh, Christina J.
    The critical oxygen partial pressure (Pcrit), typically defined as the PO2 below which an animal's metabolic rate (MR) is unsustainable, is widely interpreted as a measure of hypoxia tolerance. Here, Pcrit is defined as the PO2 at which physiological oxygen supply (α0) reaches its maximum capacity (α; µmol O2 g−1 h−1 kPa−1). α is a species- and temperature-specific constant describing the oxygen dependency of the maximum metabolic rate (MMR=PO2×α) or, equivalently, the MR dependence of Pcrit (Pcrit=MR/α). We describe the α-method, in which the MR is monitored as oxygen declines and, for each measurement period, is divided by the corresponding PO2 to provide the concurrent oxygen supply (α0=MR/PO2). The highest α0 value (or, more conservatively, the mean of the three highest values) is designated as α. The same value of α is reached at Pcrit for any MR regardless of previous or subsequent metabolic activity. The MR need not be constant (regulated), standardized or exhibit a clear breakpoint at Pcrit for accurate determination of α. The α-method has several advantages over Pcrit determination and non-linear analyses, including: (1) less ambiguity and greater accuracy, (2) fewer constraints in respirometry methodology and analysis, and (3) greater predictive power and ecological and physiological insight. Across the species evaluated here, α values are correlated with MR, but not Pcrit. Rather than an index of hypoxia tolerance, Pcrit is a reflection of α, which evolves to support maximum energy demands and aerobic scope at the prevailing temperature and oxygen level.