Varying heat tolerance among Arctic nearshore fishes

K. T. Bilyk, T. L. Sformo

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4 Scopus citations


Adapted to life in cold, polar waters, might Arctic fishes be ill equipped to deal with the rising temperatures expected from global climate change? Little is currently known about differences in tolerance among the diverse collection of nearshore, estuarine, and freshwater fishes found in the Arctic. We investigated the thermal tolerance of this broader Arctic ichthyofauna by studying heat tolerance among common members of the fish fauna near Utqiaġvik (Barrow), Alaska. Situated on the Arctic coast, Utqiaġvik provides access to fishes that span the key ecological divisions of Arctic waters. Organismal heat tolerance was measured for six species of local fishes using the critical thermal maximum methodology. We found that these Arctic nearshore fishes commonly had heat tolerance limits that were similar to cold-temperate species. However, there was substantial variation in heat tolerance among North Slope fishes, with several anadromous species endemic to Arctic habitats notable for significantly lower heat tolerance compared to the other investigated species. This would suggest that vulnerability to warming differs among Arctic fishes, even among those collected in the same waters, with species such as least cisco and broad whitefish seemingly most at risk from future increases in water temperature.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)607-612
Number of pages6
JournalPolar Biology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2021


  • Coregonus nasus
  • Coregonus sardinella
  • Critical thermal maximum
  • Gasterosteus aculeatus
  • Liopsetta glacialis
  • Myoxocephalus quadricornis
  • North slope
  • Osmerus mordax


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