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David Randall is no longer among us

It is with great sadness that I must report the passing of another great scientist and researcher who significantly contributed to our understanding of fish physiology, particularly sturgeons. Hosting and collaborating with Dave Randall at the La Casella experimental plant in the nineties was a great honor for me.

P. Bronzi

Obituary, David John Randall (1938 – 2024)

Dr. David J. Randall was a professor in the Department of Zoology at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada, from 1963-2003. Dr. Randall was a fish physiologist and a very illustrious member of faculty at UBC, who received various honours over his lifetime (Award of Excellence from the American Fisheries Society, Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, Fellow of the Brazilian Academy of Sciences). Internationally, he is renowned for being a founding co-editor of the “Fish Physiology” series, started in 1969, the series is still going strong today.  He was also co-author of a prominent undergraduate textbook, “Animal Physiology: Mechanisms and Adaptations”, that had multiple editions and was translated into numerous languages across the globe.

Dr Randall worked on many fishes around the world, including sturgeon. He had published an influential study in 1978 (Burggren and Randall, 1978), indicating that white sturgeon Acipenser transmontanus reduced their metabolism profoundly when water oxygen supply diminished (aquatic hypoxia), a response known as ‘oxygen conforming’.  That response is extremely rare in vertebrates and the study raised some controversy. In 1991, Dave Randall came to the ENEL research facilities at La Casella (Piacenza Province, Emilia Romagna Region, Italy), to collaborate with Dr Paolo Bronzi and Dr Liana Bolis and myself on the physiology of the Adriatic sturgeon Acipenser naccarii.  The visit led to the first publication investigating how dietary lipids affected responses to hypoxia in a fish (Randall et al., 1992). We demonstrated that sturgeon do not show a clear oxygen conforming response during hypoxia, they attempt to regulate their aerobic metabolism like other fishes, although their response was affected by the lipid composition of their diet!  Dave’s visit effectively launched a decade of research into sturgeon physiology at La Casella, notably their cardiorespiratory but also their osmoregulatory physiology.  He continued to visit us and to be involved, including by participation in the (somewhat) legendary 3rd International Sturgeon Symposium, held in Piacenza in 1997 (see picture).

Dave Randall was something of a ‘godfather’ in the tight-knit international community of fish physiologists, which he had played such a major role in establishing from the 1960s onwards. He was an amazing and generous mentor, instrumental in the careers of many established academics and researchers across the globe. He will be sorely missed.

David J. McKenzie

Montpellier, France, May 2024.

References cited

Burggren, W.W. and Randall, D.J. (1978). Oxygen uptake and transport during hypoxic exposure in the sturgeon Acipenser transmontanus. Respiration Physiology 34, 171–183.

Randall, D.J., McKenzie, D.J., Abrami, G., Bondiolotti, G., Natiello, F., Bronzi, P., Bolis, L. and Agradi, E. (1992). Effects of diet on responses to hypoxia in sturgeon (Acipenser naccarii). Journal of Experimental Biology 170, 113–125.