Gill morphometrics of the thresher sharks
Published online on 20. February 2015
Gill morphometrics of the thresher sharks (Genus Alopias): Correlation of gill dimensions with aerobic demand and environmental oxygen
Thomas P. Wootton, Chugey A. Sepulveda, Nicholas C. Wegner
Gill morphometrics of the three thresher shark species (genus Alopias) were determined to examine how metabolism and habitat correlate with respiratory specialization for increased gas exchange. Thresher sharks have large gill surface areas, short water–blood barrier distances, and thin lamellae. Their large gill areas are derived from long total filament lengths and large lamellae, a morphometric configuration documented for other active elasmobranchs (i.e., lamnid sharks, Lamnidae) that augments respiratory surface area while limiting increases in branchial resistance to ventilatory flow. The bigeye thresher, Alopias superciliosus, which can experience prolonged exposure to hypoxia during diel vertical migrations, has the largest gill surface area documented for any elasmobranch species studied to date. The pelagic thresher shark, A. pelagicus, a warm-water epi-pelagic species, has a gill surface area comparable to that of the common thresher shark, A. vulpinus, despite the latter’s expected higher aerobic requirements associated with regional endothermy. In addition, A. vulpinus has a significantly longer water–blood barrier distance than A. pelagicus and A. superciliosus, which likely reflects its cold, well-oxygenated habitat relative to the two other Alopias species. In fast-swimming fishes (such as A. vulpinus and A. pelagicus) cranial streamlining may impose morphological constraints on gill size. However, such constraints may be relaxed in hypoxia-dwelling species (such as A. superciliosus) that are likely less dependent on streamlining and can therefore accommodate larger branchial chambers and gills.
Journal of Morphology, doi: 10.1002/jmor.20369