Papers in the Biological Sciences


Date of this Version



Journal of General Physiology (January 1922) 4(3): 305-317.


Copyright © 1922, Rockefeller University Press.


Within recent years much has been added to the knowledge concerning the mechanism of the respiratory function of the blood. Haldane and Priestley (1905) have shown that, at least in the higher animals, the respiratory movements are affected by the carbon dioxide tension of the arterial blood. It has been shown definitely (Hasselbalch, 1912 and citations) that the exciting agent is the hydrogen ion concentration of the blood bathing the respiratory center.

Krogh and Leitch (1919) undertook to study the respiratory function of the blood of fishes in view of the knowledge of the influence of temperature upon the dissociation curve of oxyhemoglobin as investigated by Barcroft and Hill (1909) and Barcroft (1914). These workers found that the blood of the fish was especially adapted to its needs.

Certain marine fishes are known to react to a gradient of acidity and alkalinity (Shelford and Powers, 1915). It has been found that certain species react positively to a definite range of hydrogen ion concentration of the sea water, others are less definite in their reaction, and still others seemingly do not respond to differences in alkalinity and acidity (Powers, 1921).

In view of these facts experiments were undertaken to determine the ability of marine fishes to extract oxygen from the sea water at different hydrogen ion concentrations. Interest in this question was further stimulated by the theory held by Roule (1915) that the salmon (Salmo salar L.) does not respond to salinity or temperature but that it always reacts in such a way as to bring it into water having a higher oxygen content.