Impacts of Deoxygenation and Hypoxia on Shark Embryos Anti-Predator Behavior and Oxidative Stress

Jaquelino Varela, Sandra Martins, Melanie Court, Catarina Pereira Santos, José Ricardo Paula, Inês João Ferreira, Mário Diniz, Tiago Repolho, Rui Rosa

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2 Citations (Scopus)
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Climate change is leading to the loss of oxygen content in the oceans and endangering the survival of many marine species. Due to sea surface temperature warming and changing circulation, the ocean has become more stratified and is consequently losing its oxygen content. Oviparous elasmobranchs are particularly vulnerable as they lay their eggs in coastal and shallow areas, where they experience significant oscillations in oxygen levels. Here, we investigated the effects of deoxygenation (93% air saturation) and hypoxia (26% air saturation) during a short-term period (six days) on the anti-predator avoidance behavior and physiology (oxidative stress) of small-spotted catshark (Scyliorhinus canicula) embryos. Their survival rate decreased to 88% and 56% under deoxygenation and hypoxia, respectively. The tail beat rates were significantly enhanced in the embryos under hypoxia compared to those exposed to deoxygenation and control conditions, and the freeze response duration showed a significant opposite trend. Yet, at the physiological level, through the analyses of key biomarkers (SOD, CAT, GPx, and GST activities as well as HSP70, Ubiquitin, and MDA levels), we found no evidence of increased oxidative stress and cell damage under hypoxia. Thus, the present findings show that the projected end-of-the-century deoxygenation levels elicit neglectable biological effects on shark embryos. On the other hand, hypoxia causes a high embryo mortality rate. Additionally, hypoxia makes embryos more vulnerable to predators, because the increased tail beat frequency will enhance the release of chemical and physical cues that can be detected by predators. The shortening of the shark freeze response under hypoxia also makes the embryos more prone to predation.
Original languageEnglish
Article number577
Number of pages13
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 10 Apr 2023


  • climate change
  • elasmobranch
  • embryogenesis
  • oxygen loss
  • predation
  • sharks


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