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Responses to handling and confinement stressors in juvenile great sturgeon Huso huso

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The effects of acute stressors on physiological responses of juvenile great sturgeon or beluga Huso huso L. were investigated in two experiments. In the first experiment, fish were handled by placing them in containers at either low density (LD, one fish l−1) or high density (HD, four fish l−1) for 60 s. Concentrations of plasma cortisol, glucose and lactate were determined from blood collected at 0, 1, 3, 6 and 12 h after application of the stressor. Plasma cortisol concentrations increased after the disturbance in H. huso from both handling treatments, but changes were not significant. Plasma glucose rose significantly by 22·9 and 31·6% in LD and HD handling treatments, respectively, after 3 h. Significant increases in plasma lactate occurred within 1 h in both treatment groups, but that of the HD group was much higher. In the second experiment, fish were held at two different densities, LD (2 kg m−2 tank bottom surface area) and HD (7 kg m−2), for 8 weeks and then subjected to an aerial emersion handling stressor in a net for 60 s; blood samples were taken before handling (resting, 0 h) and at 1, 3, 6 and 9 h after handling. Plasma cortisol increased significantly in fish from the HD treatment from 8·8 ± 0·3 to 19·2 ± 2·4 ng ml−1 (mean ±s.e.) by 1 h after stress, but post-handling changes in the LD group were not significant. Significant increases in both plasma glucose and lactate were observed by 1 h in both treatment groups, with peak levels of plasma glucose evident at 3 h [69·4 ± 2·9 and 60·9 ± 1·7 mg dl−1 (mean ±s.e.) in LD and HD groups, respectively]. Plasma glucose levels were significantly higher in the LD group than in the HD group at 3 and 6 h. Post-handling haemoglobin content increased by 1 h and white blood cell numbers were reduced by 3 and 6 h in the HD treatment group compared with resting values, but changes in these blood features in the LD group were not significant. Acute handling did not affect haematocrit in either treatment. The results suggest that H. huso is relatively resistant to handling and confinement, and could tolerate normal hatchery practices associated with aquaculture. Because changes in cortisol concentrations were relatively low compared with those in most teleosts, glucose and lactate concentrations may be more useful as stress indicators in juvenile H. huso. This study also demonstrated that prior exposure to a chronic stressor, specifically high stocking density, could alter the physiological response to subsequent acute handling in H. huso.

Keywords: Huso huso; acute; chronic; density; physiology; stress

Document Type: Regular Paper


Affiliations: 1: Fisheries Department, Faculty of Natural Resources, University of Guilan, Sowmeh Sara, P. O. Box 1144, Guilan, Iran, 2: International Sturgeon Research Institute, Rasht, Guilan, 41635-3464, Iran and 3: Serranus Consulting Ltd, Rural Route 7, Perth, Ontario K7H 3C9, Canada

Publication date: September 1, 2009


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