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Access Type

Open Access

Document Type


Degree Program

Organismic & Evolutionary Biology

Degree Type

Master of Science (M.S.)

Year Degree Awarded


Month Degree Awarded



climate change, brook trout, growth, stress, heat shock protein, cortisol


Despite the threat of climate change, the physiological mechanisms by which temperature drives the distribution of species are unclear. Here we used chronic temperature exposures to determine that the upper limit for positive growth in the eastern brook trout (Salvelinus fontinalis) is 23.4 °C. Additionally, brook trout exposed to daily temperature oscillations of 8 °C, around a mean of 21 °C, exhibited growth rates that were 43 and 35% lower by length and weight respectively, than in constant 21 °C controls. Limitations in growth were associated with increases in indicators of the physiological stress response. Individuals exposed to 22 or 24 °C for 24 days exhibited plasma cortisol levels that were 12 and 18 fold greater than at 16 °C. Similarly, gill heat shock protein (Hsp)-70 levels were 10.7 and 56 fold higher at 22 and 24 °C than at 16 °C. Brook trout exposed to daily temperature oscillation of 4 or 8 °C had gill Hsp-70 levels that were 40 and 700 fold greater than controls. Acute (6 h) temperature exposures were used to demonstrate a threshold for induction of the Hsp-70 and plasma glucose responses of 20.7 °C and 21.2 °C respectively. Finally, we conducted field surveys that demonstrated increased plasma cortisol, plasma glucose, and gill Hsp-70 at temperatures above 21 °C. Induction of the cellular and endocrine stress responses is associated with decreased growth in brook trout. Thermal limitations on growth may provide a mechanism by which temperature drives the distributions of this cold-water species.


First Advisor

Stephen D McCormick