Adult gilthead sea bream Sparus aurata and sea bass Dicentrarchus labrax were exposed for 24 and 48 h, respectively, to two concentrations of ammonia each (mean values of 3·34 and 13·10 mg l−1 TA-N in S. aurata; 2·99 and 11·90 mg l−1 TA-N in D. labrax). Light microscopy and computerized morphometry were used to evaluate ammonia-induced alterations in skin structure during exposure and following recovery in normal water. In S. aurata, ammonia exposure induced a concentration-dependent increase in the number (hyperplasia) of neutral mucous cells (mc), with peak values at 24 h recovery after exposure. An increase in the dispersion of melanosomes in skin melanocytes was also observed in the dermis and occasionally in the epidermis of S. aurata, with peak values at 24 h of ammonia exposure. Exposure of D. labrax to ammonia had, likewise, concentration-dependent effects on mucous secretion. Of the two types of mc in this species, there was an increase in the number of the neutral mc and a reduction in the much more numerous acid mc, with peak values at 24 and 48 h, respectively, of ammonia exposure. The more intense mucous secretion in D. labrax compared to S. aurata could be related to the lower tolerance to ammonia in D. labrax, as reported elsewhere. Finally, the increase in melanosome dispersion was less evident in D. labrax, due to highly variable control values. These morphological alterations to the skin could be useful indicators of non-specific stress in cultured fishes.
Hellenic Centre for Marine Research, 19013 Anavyssos, Greece 2:
The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, 91904 Jerusalem, Israel 3:
Radboud University Nijmegen, 6525 ED Nijmegen, The Netherlands