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Keywords:

  • Scyliorhinus;
  • embryo;
  • eggcase;
  • ventilation;
  • temperature;
  • hypoxia

Small, intermediate and large-sized embryos of the dogfish Scyliorhinus canicula utilize different ventilatory methods; small and intermediate embryos rely on body movement alone to stir either the jelly or sea water in the capsule, large embryos use conventional pharyngeal pumping to pump water through the case. The effects of environmental changes in O2 tension (0.5–100% air saturation) and temperature (6–18°C) upon ventilatory mechanisms in the developing embryo in situ were studied using non-invasive ultrasonography. All three embryo classes increased ventilation rate with rising temperature: for small embryos, y=2.02x+3.295 (P<0.01); for intermediate embryos, y=3.51x+0.395 (P<0.01); and for large embryos, y=3.81x+9.39 (P<0.01); where y=ventilatory frequency (tail beats min−1 or pump cycles min−1) and x=temperature (°C). Q10 (6–16°C)=5.0, 2.45, and 2.08 for small, intermediate and large embryos, respectively; corresponding Q10 (8–18°C) values were 2.09, 2.62, and 2.02. It is suggested that the extreme response of small embryos to 6°C is related to a different state of development in either chemoreceptors or muscle blocks. There was no significant change in ventilatory frequency induced by chronic (2 h) hypoxia. Dogfish embryos are oxyconformers at 8°C but oxyregulators at higher temperatures. Water flow through an eggcase occupied by a large embryo was studied also. Water enters the open eggcase of a large embryo, drawn in by the buccal/opercular pump of the respiring embryo, via holes at the posterior end of the eggcase. Expired water exits holes at the anterior end of the eggcase. The mean residence time for water in the case is 50 s at 8°C, giving a transit velocity of 1.36 mm s−1.