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Anaerobic metabolism is recruited in vertebrates under conditions of intense exercise or lowered environmental oxygen availability (hypoxia), typically resulting in the accumulation of lactate in blood and tissues. Lactate will be cleared over time after the reoxygenation of tissues, eventually returning to control levels. Here, we present a laboratory exercise developed as part of an upper-level vertebrate physiology class that demonstrates the effects of exercise and hypoxia exposure on blood lactate in fish and the subsequent decrease in lactate during recovery. Typically, the results obtained by students demonstrate that both treatments cause significant increases in blood lactate concentrations (two to three times higher than control values) that decrease back to normal values within 3 h of recovery under normoxia. The procedures described are generally applicable to other fish species and provide an alternative to using humans or other mammalian species to investigate anaerobic metabolism.
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