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Effects of delayed first feeding on the nutritional condition and mortality of California halibut larvae

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The effect of the timing of first feeding (3, 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8 days post‐hatch, dph) on laboratory‐reared California halibut Paralichthys californicus larvae was evaluated by means of morphologic, morphometric and histological criteria. Larvae began to feed exogenously at 3 dph (2·7 ± 0·01 mm standard length, LS) at 18° C. Eye pigmentation, rather than mouth opening was the most distinctive trait of California halibut larvae at first feeding. Larval growth was significantly affected by the time of first exogenous feeding. At notochord flexion (21 dph), the LS of larvae fed for the first time at 3 dph was significantly larger (5·1 ± 0·1 mm) than that of those fed at 4 and 5 dph (4·9 ± 0·1 mm), although the latter fish had a more uniform size distribution. The point of no return was reached at 7 dph. Survival of larvae initially fed at 3, 4 and 5 dph was similar (58·4–60%), while no larvae were able to survive when food was offered for the first time between 6 and 8 dph. Food deprivation resulted in a progressive deterioration of the larval digestive system and atrophy of skeletal muscle fibres. Significant changes in the anterior and posterior enterocyte height were detected after 2 days of food deprivation. Similarly, tail height: LS and trunk length: LS ratios were the most sensitive morphometric indices to detect the effect of fasting on larval condition. Present results show that a combination of morphometric and histological variables can be used to evaluate the nutritional condition of California halibut larvae.

Keywords: California halibut; histology; larvae; morphometrics; point of no return; starvation

Document Type: Regular Paper


Affiliations: 1: Centre d’Aqüicultura, Institut de Recerca i Tecnologia Agroalimentaries (IRTA), Aptat. Correus 200, 43 540 Sant Carles de la Ràpita, Tarragona, Spain, 2: Department of Animal Science, University of California, Davis, CA 95 616, U.S.A. and 3: Department of Biological and Agricultural Engineering, University of California, Davis, CA 95 616, U.S.A.

Publication date: 2004-01-01

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