The effects of aquatic oxygen concentration, body size and respiratory behaviour on the stamina of obligate aquatic (Bufo americanus) and facultative air-breathing (Xenopus laevis and Rana berlandieri) anuran larvae.
Larvae of the anurans Rana berlandieri and Xenopus laevis have lungs and can breathe air as well as irrigate buccal and pharyngeal surfaces for aquatic respiration. Larvae of Bufo americanus lack lungs until just before metamorphosis and are obligately aquatic. We examined the relationship between the locomotor stamina (time to fatigue), aquatic oxygen concentration, body size, and respiratory behaviour of swimming larvae of these species, with the following results: Stamina is size-dependent in all three species. Aquatic hypoxia reduces stamina in larvae of all three species, but most conspicuously in Bufo. Breathing air increases stamina in Rana larvae, especially in large animals and under aquatic hypoxia. In contrast to Rana larvae, Xenopus larvae swimming in normoxic water undergo a reduction in stamina when allowed to breathe air. In hypoxic water, aerial respiration moderates the reduction in stamina seen in Xenopus larvae. Branchial irrigation is associated with increased stamina in Xenopus, and is increased under hypoxia and at high swimming velocities. Respiratory demand, buoyancy and the drag associated with branchial irrigation all affect respiratory behaviour in Xenopus larvae. The great amount of interspecific variation in the relationship between respiratory behaviour and stamina reveals the importance of measuring performance directly when attempting to interpret the functional significance of respiratory structures and behaviour.