ReviewECOLOGY

The gill-oxygen limitation theory (GOLT) and its critics

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Science Advances  06 Jan 2021:
Vol. 7, no. 2, eabc6050
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.abc6050

Abstract

The gill-oxygen limitation theory (GOLT) provides mechanisms for key aspects of the biology (food conversion efficiency, growth and its response to temperature, the timing of maturation, and others) of water-breathing ectotherms (WBEs). The GOLT’s basic tenet is that the surface area of the gills or other respiratory surfaces of WBE cannot, as two-dimensional structures, supply them with sufficient oxygen to keep up with the growth of their three-dimensional bodies. Thus, a lower relative oxygen supply induces sexual maturation, and later a slowing and cessation of growth, along with an increase of physiological processes relying on glycolytic enzymes and a declining role of oxidative enzymes. Because the “dimensional tension” underlying this argument is widely misunderstood, emphasis is given to a detailed refutation of objections to the GOLT. This theory still needs to be put on a solid quantitative basis, which will occur after the misconceptions surrounding it are put to rest.

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