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SUMMARY

1. The chief objective was to determine the upper and lower thermal limits for feeding and survival in the stone loach, Noemacheilus barbatulus, using juveniles (total length 30–45 mm, live weight 0.25–0.80 g) from one population and adults (total length 77–100 mm, live weight 3.6–7.9 g) from three populations.

2. Fish were acclimatized to constant temperatures of 3, 7, 10, 15, 20, 25 and 27°C; then the temperature was changed at a rate of 1°C/30min to determine the critical limits for feeding, survival over 7 days (incipient lethal temperature), or survival for 10 min or less (ultimate lethal temperature). The rate of 1°C/30min was the optimum value from preliminary experiments, using nine rates from 0.5°C/48h to 18°Ch−1. As values for adults were not significantly different between populations, they were pooled to provide arithmetic means (with 95% CL) for the thermal limits at each acclimation temperature.

3. Feeding limits increased with acclimation temperature to upper and lower mean values of 28.0 ± 0.15°C and 5.1 ± 0.55°C for adults, 25.0 ± 0.54°C and 6.1 ± 0.92°C for juveniles. Incipient lethal levels defined a tolerance zone within which stone loach survive for a considerable time; upper limits increased with acclimation temperature to reach a maximum plateau of 29.1 ± 0.18°C for adults and 29.0 ± 0.40°C for juveniles; lower limits also increased from near 0°C to 3.0 ± 0.40°C for adults and juveniles. Upper limits for the ultimate lethal level increased with acclimation temperature to a maximum plateau of 33.5°C for adults (95% CL ± 0.19) and juveniles (95% CL ± 0.40), whilst the lower limits increased from near 0°C to 2.5 ± 0.30°C. At acclimation temperatures below 20°C, upper incipient and ultimate lethal values were significantly lower for juveniles than those for adults.

4. The thermal tolerance of stone loach was higher than that of juvenile Atlantic salmon or brown trout, one or both of these species often being dominant in streams with stone loach.